http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/346021

Review: New on DVD for March 19 Special

Posted Mar 18, 2013 by Sarah Gopaul
This week’s releases include the early work of a four-time Academy Award winner; a CGI marvel; two French films that couldn’t be more dissimilar; and a procedural chronicling global search.
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Alliance Films
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BBC Home Entertainment
Daniel Day-Lewis Triple Feature (DVD)
How Many Miles to Babylon?: Two Irishmen – Alex Moore (Day-Lewis), a Protestant, and his childhood friend Jerry (Christopher Fairbank), a Catholic – enter WWI as soldiers and see their friendship tested as they experience the harsh realities of war.
The Insurance Man: Told through flashbacks, the story follows Franz, who recounts a mysterious skin condition he suffered as a factory worker before the First World War. At Prague’s infamous insurance company, Franz meets Kafka (Day-Lewis), an insurance bureaucrat whose intelligence and compassion are out of place amid the apathy that surrounds him.
Dangerous Corner: Day-Lewis plays publishing executive Gordon Whitehouse. While gathered with his coterie of high society friends and coworkers at the country estate of his business partner, one guest makes a surprising remark about a musical box. This seemingly harmless comment produces a string of shocking revelations with devastating repercussions.
In each of these early roles, Day-Lewis portrays a refined character. In the first film, the sheltered young man joins the war and – as predicted – is given a higher ranking position based on his status and not his skill. In the second movie, Kafka is well-spoken and respected, even if not liked, by all. On the other hand, all the groping and nudity throughout the picture is unexpected. The third film is a fast-talking stream of accusations, confessions and revelations in which Day-Lewis is one of several aristocrats. While Day-Lewis was always talented, the range displayed in these movies is limited.
There are no special features. (BBC Home Entertainment)
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Blu-ray, DVD and Ultraviolet combo pack)
Sixty years before J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings saga, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is swept into a quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, long ago conquered by the dragon Smaug. Approached by the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Their journey takes them through treacherous lands swarming with Trolls, Goblins, Orcs and deadly Wargs. They must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature Gollum (Andy Serkis) who would change his life forever. Alone with Gollum on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers guile and courage that surprise him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities, tied to the fate of all Middle-Earth.
The jury is still out on the division of this slim novel into three films. The first installment takes many liberties with the story, making significant changes to the dwarves’ relationship with the elves. Though it does conclude in a predictable spot for those familiar with the tale. That said, director Peter Jackson takes the world he perfected in the trilogy and transfers it the land of the prequel. The return of Serkis as Gollum continues his flawless portrayal of the desperate character. Also reprising his role, McKellen adjusts the wizard’s personality to match the younger, less grave version featured in this picture. The production value matches that of the first epic journey and the introduction of Smaug in the next chapter is an element to look forward to.
Special features include: 10 comprehensive video blogs created by director Peter Jackson especially for fans. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
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Alliance Films
Mars et Avril (DVD)
In futuristic Montreal, two men are smitten with the same girl. Jacob (Jacques Languirand) is an older musician of significant renown; Arthur (Paul Ahmarani) designs musical instruments to be manufactured by his father (Robert Lepage). The object of their desire, Avril (Caroline Dhavernas), is a short-winded photographer short on inspiration. Through teleportation and a device for travelling into the unconscious, the amorous adventures of the time-unstuck trio bring them to Mars — or to what they imagine Mars to be.
This film is about grasping onto particular ideas within the moments they are presented. Though the Mars venture is meant to be the thread present through the entire picture, it seems the least important of the interactions. Avril's relationship with Jacob is by far the most engaging element of the movie as she seduces him and forces him to confront a lie he's lived most of his life. The modeling of musical instruments after women's bodies is also an intriguing concept since this inspiration has generally been reserved for song lyrics. The "future" presented is hip, which results in technological advances in some respects but not all, such as fashion and art.
Special features are French only. (Alliance Films)
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BBC Home Entertainment
My Brother Jonathan (DVD)
Based on the Edwardian romance book by Francis Brett Young, Jonathan (Daniel Day-Lewis) is the ungainly, neglected eldest son of a family living in the Black Country. His younger brother Harold (Benedict Taylor) is everything he is not - athletic, handsome and clever. Despite the favoritism shown to Harold, the two boys build a close friendship that lasts a lifetime and ends in tragedy.
This miniseries shows its age (or maybe its source) by lacking the consistent high drama audiences have become accustomed to in more recent mini movies via HBO. The story of the two brothers is stretched out by inconsequential conversation and backyard tennis matches. In spite of his academic achievement, Jonathan continues to believe he’s less accomplished than his athletic brother – mostly due to an inferiority complex established by his father at a young age. Though he aspires to be a surgeon, Jonathan shows he has a real knack for being a general practitioner in an industrial neighbourhood.
Special features include: “Day Out,” a visit to the town of Dudley in the Black Country where the film is set. (BBC Home Entertainment)
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Entertainment One
The Other Son (DVD)
As he prepares to join the Israeli army for his national service, Joseph (Jules Sitruk) discovers he is not his parents’ biological son, but that he was inadvertently switched at birth with Yacine (Mehdi Dehbi), the son of a Palestinian family from the West Bank. This revelation turns the lives of these two families upside-down, forcing them to reassess their respective identities, their values and their beliefs.
While this is an unfortunate reality for many families, this instance is made so much more complicated by the religious and political divisions between the two families. Surprisingly, the teens' relatives have greater difficulty dealing with the extraordinary discovery than the boys themselves. With no intention of shifting away from their "adopted" families, they are curious to see the lives they could have lived. Other questions also arise regarding nature versus nurture as each son shows skills displayed by his birth parents in spite of not being raised by them. In the end, what could have been a darkly dramatic film is a light, touching story about acceptance – of life's surprises and each other.
Special features include: deleted scenes; a making-of featurette; and bloopers (French only). (Entertainment One)
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Rust and Bone (DVD)
Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) is an orca trainer whose life is transformed when tragedy strikes during a show. Faced with unbearable circumstances she turns to Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), a street boxer amidst his own battle of life-changing events. As their stories intersect, they navigate a gritty relationship in a world where love and courage appear in many forms.
Special features include: commentary by director/writer Jacques Audiard and co-writer Thomas Bidegain; six deleted scenes with commentary; “Making Rust and Bone: A Film by Antonin Peretjatko”; VFX breakdown by Mikros; and “On the Red Carpet: Toronto International Film Festival.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
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Anchor Bay Entertainment
The Shadow People (Blu-ray)
Back in the 1970s, several patients in an experimental sleep study reported seeing shadowy intruders. These patients – and hundreds of others – died in their sleep soon after. Doctors called the phenomenon ‘Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome’. They refused to discuss the shadows. Now, a struggling late-night radio host (Dallas Roberts) and a skeptical CDC investigator (Alison Eastwood) have begun researching a disturbing new outbreak of shadow sightings and sleep fatalities. Could this be a case of paranoid hallucination, or are these victims literally being scared to death by actual nightmare creatures?
They call it an inverse placebo effect, in which a person's mind can actually kill the body through false belief. In horror movie terms, this is similar to the "Freddy Krueger syndrome." When the townspeople erased Freddy from memory, he was no longer able to haunt anyone's dreams because no one feared him. In other words, you have to believe to be a victim. True to the title, there is some great use of shadow in the film, particularly around the radio host. There are numerous dark shapes lurking all over his house, some of which even take on a life of their own and others that look like they might. Unfortunately the very last scene goes against everything laid out in the rest of the film, turning the whole thing into somewhat of a farce.
Special features include: “Shadow People: More to the Story.” (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
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Entertainment One
Zero Dark Thirty (DVD)
For a decade, an elite team of intelligence and military operatives working in secret across the globe devoted themselves to a single goal: to find and eliminate Osama bin Laden. This is the story of history's greatest manhunt for the world's most dangerous man.
It’s unlikely this is a tell-all about the events that led to the death of Osama Bin Laden. But it is a well-made, captivating, intense procedural about some of the key events that led to his discovery. To set the tone, the film opens with a series of 911 calls made on September 11, 2001 from the World Trade Center before it collapsed. The replaying of this tragedy is in some way meant to justify (or at least explain) the subsequent torture of a terrorist at a secret CIA location. Whether it's successful is up to the individual. Chastain is an excellent actress and she is well casted in this role. However, there is some harsher dialogue that either doesn't fit the character she created for the rest of the film. The operations and technical elements of the film are where director Kathryn Bigelow shines. She expertly pieces together these events that are years apart so they flow effortlessly. As the work moves from dark rooms and offices around the globe to the field, the camera takes more liberties creating even greater tension.
Special features include: a making-of featurette; a tour of the film’s rebuilt compound; a video of the cast training with authentic SEAL gear; and a look at the role of Maya. (Entertainment One)