Review: New on DVD for June 17 Special

Posted Jun 18, 2014 by Sarah Gopaul
This week’s releases include the next ruthless chapters of the politically ambitious; an “awesome” movie for all ages; a stylish throwback; and a sci-fi film that poses dark but interesting questions.
 Lego Movie  builds a win.
'Lego Movie" builds a win.
Box Office Mojo
Authors Anonymous (DVD)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
After a dysfunctional group of unpublished writers accept ditzy Hannah (Kaley Cuoco) into their fold, the last thing they expect is her overnight success. While her career takes off, her eccentric and envious colleagues struggle to find their own way. A lonely pizza boy (Chris Klein) tries to deal with his growing crush on Hannah. An optometrist (Dylan Walsh) stalks a literary agent (Jonathan Banks) for his stay-at-home wife (Teri Polo). And a military veteran (Dennis Farina) starts selling his Clancy-esque masterpiece at a local hardware store. Tensions rise, rivalries form, and hearts are broken. Rejection turns to desperation. Good thing they're only armed with pens.
In any group of amateur, wannabe anythings, jealousy is bound to eventually rear its ugly head because not everyone is equally talented and only some are going to succeed. This is a comedic look at such a dynamic in which the group implodes after one of their members gains recognition. The actors are well casted in roles they've portrayed before. Cuoco doesn’t traditionally portray smart characters, but she has a good heart. Farina is blindly determined and a bit of a kook that is always injecting some humour into every scene. Klein is the nice guy pining away for the uninterested girl, which is probably the most empowering aspect of the movie because it doesn't follow Hollywood's rules of romance.
Special features include: commentary by director Ellie Kanner; alternate takes; and behind-the-scenes featurette. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
Upon returning from a pilgrimage across Japan, the warrior Toramaru (Mitsuki Koga) arrives with tales of seven epic battles against Japan’s most legendary fighters. As Toramaru’s philosophy dictates that he “know the enemy by eating his food,” each masterfully-choreographed fight is preceded by a helping of his prey’s favourite dish. Designated successor to Master Gensai (Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi) and leading proponent of the all-round martial-arts discipline, The Cosmic Way, Toramaru tells the tales of The Seven Deadly Battles as Master Gensai eagerly listens to the lavish and violent details of Toramaru’s adventures.
Don't watch this movie if you're hungry or it's close to meal time. Toramaru 's method of familiarizing himself with his opponents through their favourite dishes is an absurd concept that only really seems to serve in whetting the audience's appetite for real food. The individual fights are okay, but generally anti-climactic. The moment Toramaru adopts an element of his opponent's style, the fight ends in a couple of moves - often with little reason based on previous tactics. Still, the sword fight is probably one of the best all-around matches. The concluding chapter is narratively the most interesting as Toramaru is confronted with one last challenge that takes an ironic turn before the end of the picture.
Special features include: making-of featurette. (Shout Factory)
Devil’s Knot (Blu-ray)
Remstar Films
May 5, 1993, West Memphis, Arkansas. Three young boys playing in the nearby woods never come home for dinner. In the rush to find and convict the killers, police focus on a trio of teenagers suspected of devil worship. As the mother of one of the murdered boys (Reese Witherspoon) tries to come to grips with this unspeakable tragedy, she is desperate to believe that the killers have been found and will be brought to justice. It is only when an investigator (Colin Firth) reveals that the evidence doesn’t all add up, that the community is forced to face the reality that the true killer might still be out there.
Many people are already familiar with the plight of the West Memphis Three; and for those acquainted with the details, this fictional rendition will add little to their knowledge of the case. In fact, viewers that have seen the documentaries chronicling their story probably know more than is included in the film. Nonetheless, dramatizations are an effective means to sharing injustices with a wider audience so the movie will serve its purpose. Little focus is actually placed on the accused, but rather the other players involved in their conviction. There is a lot of time dedicated to what occurred outside of the courtroom, as well as recreating the countless errors made during the trial. Witherspoon’s distraught mother is convincing as she struggles with the weight of her doubt and grief.
There are no special features. (Remstar Films)
Discopath (DVD)
Black Fawn Distribution
A timid young New Yorker (Jérémie Earp-Lavergne) in the mid-70s leads an uneventful life until he is fatefully exposed to the pulsating rhythms of a brand-new genre of music: Disco! Unable to control his murderous impulses that stem from a traumatic childhood experience, Duane Lewis transforms into a dangerous serial killer exiled to Montreal.
The hate for disco music is intense in some, but probably not as strong as it is for Duane. Setting the narrative in 1976 allows filmmakers to play with a lot of elements in the movie and logically pay homage to its similar, '70s horror predecessors in a manner that will mostly appeal to genre fans and is ultimately at least semi-comic. The juxtaposition of blaring disco beats and decorative dancers with the murder soundtrack and bloody attack during the first killing is absolutely indicative of the slasher movies the film is trying to replicate. Director Renaud Gauthier pays a lot of attention to the style of the picture, perhaps causing the script to take a backseat. But that shouldn’t deter midnight audiences from this satisfactorily blood-spattered tribute.
Special features include: commentary by director Renaud Gauthier; behind-the-scenes featurette; and music player featuring songs from the film. (Black Fawn Distribution)
House Of Cards: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
The Underwoods continue their ruthless rise to power. New alliances form while old ones succumb to deception and betrayal. Francis (Kevin Spacey) and Claire (Robin Wright) must battle threats past and present to avoid losing everything.
Continuing the Underwoods' saga from the same moment at which the inaugural season concluded, the first episode shows they have their sights set on the next step of their master plan and no one is going to stand in their way. However there are new players not afraid to sling mud of their own, creating greater hills to climb and more cumbersome obstacles. Frank and Claire leave a trail of collateral damage in their wake as they are no longer the only targets in their enemy's crosshairs nor are they pulling any punches. While Frank appeared devious before, that was nothing compared to what he and Claire unleash together. Stamper, Frank’s chief of staff, is cracking under the pressure and while he won't touch a drop of alcohol a new obsession is clouding his judgement. Moreover, Frank's new secret service man is more than dedicated to his charges, while the new whip wants to run things differently.
Special features include: “Two Houses,” explores differences between the original show & the history of how this project came together; “Table Read”; “Direct Address,” explores the way Francis talks directly to viewers in both the original & new series; “Politics for Politics Sake”; “Line of Succession,” looks at the creative process that goes into making an episode. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The LEGO Movie (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Warner Home Video
The first-ever full-length LEGO movie follows Emmet (Chris Pratt), an ordinary, rules following, perfectly average LEGO minifigure who is mistakenly identified as the most extraordinary person and the key to saving the world. He is drafted into a fellowship of strangers on an epic quest to stop an evil tyrant, a journey for which Emmet is hopelessly underprepared.
Lego has been stepping into the film and TV world more and more, regularly introducing new play sets featuring characters and locations from the big and small screen. It was only a matter of time before they would create their own property. And then they exceeded expectations by producing an incredibly amusing movie that is self-referential, draws influences from a number of other narratives, such as The Matrix and MacGyver, and includes a surprisingly catchy song (“Everything is Awesome”). The final act becomes an excellent parallel story unfolding in Legoland and the real world that laments the loss of imagination that often accompanies adulthood. There are so many hilarious characters from Batman to Unikitty to Good Cop/Bad Cop, the movie is able to consistently deliver from beginning to end. The biggest relief is filmmakers put in the necessary effort to ensure the film is more than just a marketing tool for new toys.
Special features include: filmmaker commentary; deleted scenes; “Batman: A True Artist”; “Michelangelo and Lincoln: History Cops”; “Enter the Ninjago”; “Bringing LEGO® to Life”; “See it! Build it!”; “Stories from the Story Team”; “Fan-Made Films: Top Secret Submissions”; “Everything is Awesome” sing-along; outtakes; additional promotional content; and “Alleyway Test.” (Warner Home Video)
The Machine (DVD)
Mongrel Media & XLRator Media
Two computer programmers fall in love as they create the first-ever piece of self-aware artificial intelligence, designed to help humanity. But things go terribly wrong when the British Government steals their breakthrough and teaches it to become a robotic weapon.
As developers grow closer to achieving artificial intelligence, the questions about its rights and "humanity" will continue to be a topic of discussion. Earlier this month, Russian programmers claimed to have passed the Turing test and although their claims are being protested it's evidence of how close this technology is to being fully realized. It's fairly easy to pinpoint the original idea that likely inspired the script. Though the tragedy that pushes the story forward is forced, the movie recovers to deliver a decent narrative clearly influenced by Blade Runner. The picture's most significant flaw is much of it is under lit, which is only advantageous in that it allows for some attractive glow effects.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; and trailer. (Mongrel Media and XLRator Media)
Nosferatu the Vampyre (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
It is 1850 in the beautiful, perfectly-kept town of Wismar. Jonathan Harker is about to leave on a long journey over the Carpathian Mountains to finalize real estate arrangements with a wealthy nobleman. His wife, Lucy begs him not to go and is troubled by a strong premonition of danger. Despite her warnings, Jonathan arrives four weeks later at a large, gloomy castle. Out of the mist appears a pale, wraith-like figure with a shaven head and deep-sunken eyes who identifies himself as Count Dracula. The events that transpire slowly convince Harker that he is in the presence of a vampyre. What he doesn't know is the magnitude of danger he, his wife and his town are about to experience.
The original Nosferatu that emerged from Germany during the silent picture era is still heralded as one of the best films ever made. It is the literal textbook definition of German expressionism with the expert use of shadows, skewed set design and horror narrative. The fact that the movie was an unapproved adaptation of Bram Stoker's “Dracula” required deviations from the source that probably made the film better. Werner Herzog's remake is a tribute to F.W. Murnau's film and an attempt to overcome the limitations of the original. Herzog's interpretation utilizes all the advantages of modern filmmaking, generally ignoring the techniques that make Murnau's movie so noteworthy. Herzog’s more impressive feat is filming the entire movie in English and German so that dubbing is not required.
Special features include: German and English language versions; commentary by director Werner Herzog; and making-of featurette. (Scream Factory)
The Outsiders (Blu-ray)
Warner Home Video
In 1966 Tulsa, teenagers come two ways. If you’re a “soc,” you’ve got money, cars, a future. But if you’re a “greaser,” you’re an outsider with only friends and a dream that someday you’ll finally belong.
This is one of those movies that audiences revisit because it simply sticks with you. Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of S.E. Hinton's novel is faithful to the original story, but manages to transfer it from the page to the screen in a way that truly brings it to life. The cast is a young collection of Hollywood's who's who that can be proud of their contributions to this film, including Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Diane Lane, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Ralph Macchio and C. Thomas Howell. The never ending feud between the Socs and Greasers is inescapably sad as the viewer realizes how oppressive the latter label is and the futures that are ruined because of it. But the film is shot beautifully as Coppola applies his keen eye to the moving narrative. He would go on to shoot an even more stylistic adaptation of one of Hinton's other books, "Rumble Fish."
Special features include: “Watch The Outsiders with director Francis Ford Coppola”; “Watch The Outsiders with the Greasers and a Soc”; vintage featurettes; and trailers. (Warner Home Video)
Ravenous (Blu-ray)
The inhabitants of an isolated military outpost go up against a marauding band of cannibals in a deadly struggle for survival. Ever watchful of the enemies who might literally tear them apart, the uneasy alliance of soldiers must fight brutal elements of the Sierra Nevada wilderness – as well as their own murderous instincts to stay alive.
Though it occurs in nature as well, cannibalism has always been taboo. But the last hope of a desperate man can make him do unspeakable things. This film is less focused on the gruesome aspect of the act – even though there's still a considerable amount of blood – and more on the alterations it causes in the body and mind. The narrative is predicated on the Native legend that believes consuming another's flesh has healing properties, gives above average strength and creates an appetite that can only be satisfied with more long pig. They become Wendigo. Guy Pearce's captain is far from a model soldier, proving cowardly in most situations. Conversely, Robert Carlyle is a strong and quirky personality that enhances the bizarre movie.
Special features include: commentaries by director Antonia Bird and composer Damon Albarn, screenwriter Ted Griffin and actor Jeffrey Jones, and actor Robert Carlyle; deleted scenes with commentary by Bird; new interview with actor Jeffrey Jones; two still galleries; and theatrical trailer and TV spot. (Scream Factory)
Ray Donovan: Season One (Blu-ray)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Crisis-fixer Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber) is at home with trouble until trouble hits home. Ray handles the combustible situations of L.A.’s rich and famous Boston-style. But his father, Mickey Donovan (Jon Voight), an Irish gangster, is the kind of trouble even Ray can’t contain. Now on early parole, Mickey returns to reclaim his family, his life and seek revenge against the son who sent him away 20 years ago.
Fixers live among the glamorous, but their job is cleaning up everyone else's dirty laundry. Ray and his team are especially good at their jobs, managing everything from cover-ups to public relations to negotiations. Ray's wife and kids are the most normal part of his life, and his brothers can be a headache but he loves them. Then his father emerges from prison and disrupts all of their lives under the guise of wanting to reconnect with his family. The first episode is fast-paced and hard-hitting, providing an intriguing introduction to the characters and their lifestyles. However the subsequent episodes take it down a couple of notches and demote the series to mediocre territory. There's an amusing episode in which a man is taunted by action figures while on LSD, but that's the most notable occurrence until the final three chapters when the story once again picks up.
There are no special features. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Sleepaway Camp (Collector’s Edition) (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
After a terrible boating accident killed her family, shy Angela Baker (Felissa Rose) went to live with her eccentric Aunt Martha and her cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten). This summer, Martha decides to send them both to Camp Arawak, a place to enjoy the great outdoors. Shortly after their arrival, a series of bizarre and violent “accidents” begin to claim the lives of various campers.
In the age of slasher films, this movie still stands out as one of the most bizarre to hit screens. It didn't clearly follow the standard horror movie rules regarding sex and drugs, though the victims do indulge in each. Instead the murders are all motivated by revenge. The gore effects aren't the best even for the '80s, but they do the job with pulsing blisters and decomposing flesh; the rest is merely implied and left to the viewer's imagination. The story of the ostracised young girl and her protective cousin is actually sweet if you ignore the death and mental trauma. Nonetheless, it is the final scene of the movie that stays with most people and the explanation of its creation in the bonus features is a enlightening.
Special features include: new commentaries with actors Felissa Rose and Jonathan Tiersten, and writer/director Robert Hiltzik moderated by webmaster Jeff Hayes; original commentary with Hiltzik and Rose; “At the Waterfront After the Social: The Legacy of Sleepaway Camp”; Judy, a short film by Jeff Hayes starring Karen Fields; “Princess,” a music video by Jonathan Tiersten; still gallery; and theatrical trailer and TV spots. (Scream Factory)
Son of God (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
The film depicts the life of Jesus (Diogo Morgado) from his humble birth through his teaching, crucifixion and ultimate resurrection.
Well-known producer Mark Burnett and his wife Roma Downey repackaged their seven-hour, independently funded miniseries, The Bible, to create this feature-length film about Jesus. The picture is not as gory as Mel Gibson's rendition, but it does make a point of emphasizing the viciousness of his persecution. The movie covers all the significant events in his life from walking on water to resurrecting Lazarus to multiplying the fish and bread. It focuses on his life as a miracle worker, and the awe and dedication he inspired that threatened the authority. Though Morgado is a very likeable Jesus, the film simply relates the stories without a great deal of passion.
Special features include: “Son of God: Reborn”; “From the Set: The Passion”; making-of featurette (Spanish); “Faith into Practice.” (Fox Home Entertainment)