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article imageReview: New on DVD for January 21 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jan 21, 2014 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a throwback creature feature; a reimagining of a Tennessee Williams classic; an acclaimed film based on true events; genuine comedy gold; and a couple of relatively unknowns.
A Gangster’s Tale (DVD)
M.O. Pictures
Two best friends are raised in a deadly community of criminal outcasts, where the laws of the outside world don’t apply. Trained to be vicious killers, they soon find themselves on opposite sides of their clan’s strict code of honor, becoming fierce enemies who will stop at nothing to survive.
This film is unapologetic about the characters' criminal behavior. The sons are raised to learn and obey the Siberian code as their fathers did before them. The men's tattoos tell their life stories and justice is delivered swiftly within the community. The narrative is deliberate, tracing a boy's a path to adulthood, which leads him on a mission to avenge a young woman considered a gift from God. Brief interjections from the present are scattered through the tale of Kolyma's (Arnas Fedaravicius) boyhood that included theft, incarceration and tragedy. The dialogue is spoken in English, likely to increase the film's accessibility to audiences, but it feels very much like a Russian story. Though after the long build up to the resolution, it is somewhat anti-climactic.
There are no special features. (M.O. Pictures)
Bad Milo! (DVD)
Video Services Corp.
Duncan’s (Ken Marino) mounting stress starts to trigger an insufferable gastrointestinal reaction. Out of ideas and at the end of his rope, Duncan seeks the help of a hypnotherapist (Peter Stormare), who helps him discover the root of his unusual stomach pain: a pint-sized demon living in his intestine that, triggered by excessive anxiety, forces its way out and slaughters the people who have caused Duncan stress. Out of fear that his intestinal gremlin may target its wrath on the wrong person, Duncan attempts to befriend it, naming it Milo and indulging it to keep its seemingly insatiable appetite at bay.
Men have been known to brag about the size of their excrement, however Duncan’s experience is as close as a man can get to the feeling of natural childbirth. Milo is cute in a Gremlin sort of way, making sweet-sounding cooing noises when confronted by its daddy. Conversely, it uses its pointed teeth and sharp claws to tear apart Duncan’s antagonists. This film is an endearing throwback to ‘80s creature movies such as Critters, Ghoulies and the aforementioned Gremlins. Director Jacob Vaughan opted to create the little monster using old school practical effects and puppets, contributing to its campy feel. The goofy and sometimes gross story is fun to its core. Marino plays the role pretty straight, which is perfect. Treating the existence of Milo as a serious problem adds to the knowing amusement that makes this film so entertaining.
Special features include: commentary by director Jacob Vaughan, writer Benjamin Hayes, Ken Marino and Gillian Jacobs; trailer commentary; extended and deleted scenes; “Behind Milo: The Puppeteers!”; “Behind Milo: Raw Take”; interview with Marino; and “AXS TV: A Look at Bad Milo!” (Video Services Corp.)
Blue Jasmine (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is a former New York socialite teetering on an emotional tightrope, balancing between her troubled east coast past and a fresh start in San Francisco. Having moved into her sister Ginger's (Sally Hawkins) humble apartment, Jasmine ricochets between the tumultuous acceptance of her new limitations, and the dreams of reclaiming her past life's glamour.
Combining elements of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire and the Bernie Madoff scandal, this may be Allen's best work in years. This is an extended cut of Blanche DuBois' history. Anyone familiar with the play or movie starring Vivien Leigh will recognize Blanchett's character. The story is skilfully told via flashbacks that are actually memories Jasmine lapses into during conversations with people. The transitions between scenes are seamless as a coinciding phrase will lead Jasmine to relive a moment in a time before returning to the present. Blanchett is brilliant in the role of the deposed queen who still looks down on her subjects, playing both the victim and the heroine. On the one hand, Jasmine remains the snob who escaped the middle class; on the other, she is constantly at risk of relapsing and far too eager to recount her life story to anyone within earshot. Hawkins is incredibly likeable. The two women are polar opposites, but an excellent match.
Special features include: cast press conference with Cate Blanchett, Peter Saarsgard and Andrew Dice Clay; and “Notes from the Red Carpet,” in which the cast discusses making the film and their take on the characters. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Captain Phillips (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
This film is a multi-layered examination of the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates. It focuses on the relationship between the Alabama’s commanding officer, Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks), and the Somali pirate captain, Muse (Barkhad Abdi), who takes him hostage. Phillips and Muse are set on an unstoppable collision course when Muse and his crew target Phillips’ unarmed ship; in the ensuing standoff, 145 miles off the Somali coast, both men will find themselves at the mercy of forces beyond their control.
There's no shortcuts taken in this story. It is a comprehensive retelling of Phillips' tale from harrowing leader to shell-shocked victim. This detail stretches the runtime to two and a half hours, but excited pacing means most viewers don't even notice the length. The camera changes locations often as well. It gives audiences an omnipotent understanding of the situation by taking them from the ship to the pirate's shores to inside the responding military vessel. This is Hanks' movie and he’s unsurprisingly received several best actor nominations for his performance. The audience is immediately drawn to his character. Phillips is a regular guy dragged into a horrible situation, but he maintains his composure until the end. Hanks conveys a range of emotions, sometimes in a single scene. Director Paul Greengrass instills this brave tale with all the intensity of his thrillers minus most of the violence.
Special features include: commentary by director Paul Greengrass; and three behind-the-scenes featurettes on making the film. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Carrie (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz) is a shy girl, outcast by her peers and sheltered by her deeply religious mother (Julianne Moore). But she unleashes telekinetic terror on her small town after being pushed too far at her senior prom.
Though there have been so-called sequels and reincarnations of Stephen King's tale of fear and destruction, Sissy Spacek has long reigned the supreme Carrie White. Moretz still does not surpass the original, but she does turn in a solid performance to claim second place. In this telling, though, quiet and reserved Carrie is obviously growing tired of her mother's rules and neuroses. This more confident Carrie in some ways confuses the victim story of the original with mixed results. She spends little time being frightened of her abilities, but rather embraces them as a means to gain control of her life. While it's interesting to see Carrie's powers extended with the advancement of technology, it is bordering on overkill by the end. The spirit of the characters is faithful to its source, only modernizing the bullying tactics to include cell phone videos and YouTube, but they seem to play a little more flat this time around.
Special features include: commentary by director Kimberly Peirce; deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary; alternate ending; “Bringing Back Carrie”; “The Power of Telekinesis”; telekinetic coffee shop surprise; and theatrical trailers. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Comedy Bang! Bang! – The Complete First Season (DVD)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
A high-spirited weekly get-together between host Scott Aukerman and his funny friends. In each episode, Aukerman engages his guests with unfiltered and improvisational lines of questioning, punctuated by banter and beats provided by his bandleader, one-man musical mastermind Reggie Watts. A heady mixture of characters, games, and interviews with famous celebrities such as Zach Galifianakis, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Sarah Silverman and Andy Richter.
Drawing on a number of styles and influences, creators deliver a melting pot of comedy. The inclusion of Pee-Wee Herman-type talking furniture and a word of the day makes you wonder why they drew the line at puppets. Like any variety show, the skits are hit-and-miss but it more or less balances out. The celebrity guests all embrace the nature of the show. Jon Hamm needs to be allowed more opportunities to be funny. Amy Poehler is expectedly awesome, while Paul Rudd is a little too straight of an arrow. Numerous cameos by other stars often stand out as well, such as Will Arnett, Topher Grace, Dave Thomas, David Cross, Colin Hanks, Jon Heder and Tenacious D. It may take more than one episode to get into the series, but it definitely grows on you.
Special features include: commentary featuring characters from the show; deleted scenes; full-length alternate celebrity interviews; insult supercut from “The Assassin”; supercut of Reggie Watts’ commercial intros/outros; director Ben Berman’s test shoots for special effects; alternate title sequence; ultimate teaser trailer; and IFC promos. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Freezer (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Robert Saunders (Dylan McDermott) is a New York City mechanic who is knocked unconscious at his birthday dinner and wakes up to find himself locked inside the restaurant’s walk-in freezer. But why he’s there — and how he’ll survive — will reveal a chilling nightmare of mistaken identity, the Russian mob, a missing $8 million, and a wounded cop (Peter Facinelli) who may hold the key to it all.
To get this out of the way at the start, yes this movie is predictable. It’s not incredibly difficult to guess the “plot twist” at the end. But it’s also not the least interesting script. McDermott is pretty engaging, largely trapped alone in a walk-in freezer. As the mobsters use his cage to torture him for information, Robert proves clever and not just a helpless victim. The opening scenes in which the Russians question him sans subtitles aligns the viewers with his frustration and vulnerability. The script is kept relatively tight, ensuring there’s an action beat often enough to prevent the viewer from becoming bored. While McDermott gets to strut as the smart-mouthed tough guy, Facinelli’s near-dead cop is adequately pitiful.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; and interviews with director Mikael Salomon, and actors Dylan McDermott and Peter Facinelli. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
In a World… (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Carol (Lake Bell) is an underachieving voice coach living in the shadow of her egotistical father Sam (Fred Melamed), the undisputed king of the voice-over industry. When Sam kicks her out, Carol lands her first voice-over job with the help of charming sound engineer Louis (Demetri Martin). As romantic sparks begin to fly, Carol finds herself facing a momentous decision when continued job offers put her in head to head competition with her dad.
This is a quirky comedy with multiple layers. On the surface is Carol's struggle to break into the male-dominated profession, but it also addresses her discouraging relationship with her father and her sister’s strained marriage. But each of these elements fit together perfectly to create a cohesive, entertaining narrative without feeling choppy or over ambitious. Bell also wrote and directed the picture, demonstrating an affinity with her protagonist's dedication to accomplishing her goals. Carol is the geek next door. She's fun-loving, awkward, unassuming and funny. Surprisingly, Carol doesn't call on her arsenal of voices often during her daily interactions, relying on her natural charm and ability to make conversation. Bell's restraint in this area keeps the film from becoming a gimmicky annoyance. In fact, there is nothing disingenuous about this picture. There are no superfluous characters or moments in which they try too hard to get a laugh. The comedy is authentic and built into the narrative so it feels natural instead of forced.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director/actor Lake Bell; deleted scenes; gag reel; and trailers. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Machete Kills (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
VVS Films and Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Ex-Federale agent Machete (Danny Trejo) is recruited by the President of the United States (Charlie Sheen) for a mission which would be impossible for any mortal man. Machete must take down a madman revolutionary (Demian Bichir) and an eccentric billionaire arms dealer (Mel Gibson) who has hatched a plan to spread war and anarchy across the planet. With a bounty on his head, Machete breaks all the rules as he faces death at every turn from an all-star cast of deadly assassins.
The first film maintained the Grindhouse aesthetic, however the sequel is a little more polished and a lot cleverer. Interestingly, first-time feature screenwriter Kyle Ward is able instil this film with over-the-top comedy that truly takes the Machete legend to the next level. Put simply, the follow-up has enough sense to take itself less seriously and reaps the rewards. There are many familiar faces with survivors Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez and Tom Savini reprising their roles, as well as some other Rodriguez regulars. But the list of new faces is notable too. And there are no casting mistakes — everyone is well-suited to their role, whether it’s insane, international bad guy or femme fatale. Machete gets some new toys in this picture, including the “Swiss army knife of machetes” and a gun that turns people inside out. There are also a number of deaths attributed to propellers, which are some of the more fun and outlandish kills in the picture.
Special features include: deleted and extended scenes; a making-of featurette; and “If Looks Could Kill.” (Universal Studios Home Entertainment and VVS Films)
Parkland (DVD)
Remstar Films
November 22nd, 1963 was a day that changed the world forever – when young American President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. In almost real time, the film follows a handful of individuals forced to make split-second decisions after this incomprehensible event that would change their lives and forever alter the world’s landscape: the young doctors and nurses at Parkland Hospital, the chief of the Dallas Secret Service, the unwitting cameraman who captured what has become the most watched and examined film in history, the FBI Agents who had gunman Lee Harvey Oswald within their grasp and Vice President Lyndon Johnson who had to take control of a country in a moment’s notice. Thrust into a scenario of unprecedented drama with unimaginable consequences, these key characters respond with shock, outrage, determination and courage.
The Kennedy assassination has been shown in many TV shows and movies that take place during the same period. However, it's never really been told from the point of view of those who were at ground zero. Though his death was felt throughout the country, it was undoubtedly more powerful for those nearest to the incident. And as everyone mourned his passing, it's easy to overlook the most affected people whose names no one would remember. The film weaves together their stories, mostly chronologically, cutting between the chaos of events occurring simultaneously. Refraining from displaying the gory details, the movie focuses on the people whose lives were forever touched and changed in that day and the few that followed, including the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald. It shows the shock, compassion, horror, anger and guilt of the attending doctors, the president's security, the man who captured it all on film and the killer's family.
Special features include: deleted scenes. (Remstar Films)
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