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Review: Retro is in for this week’s releases Special

Posted Oct 28, 2015 by Sarah Gopaul
This week’s releases include a comprehensive collector’s edition of a cult classic; an award-winning horror comedy; a compelling TV event from M. Night Shyamalan; and an indie darling.
A scene from ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’
A scene from ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’
Fox Searchlight
Army of Darkness: Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
Ash (Bruce Campbell) is the handsome, shotgun-toting, chainsaw-armed department store clerk from S-Mart's housewares division. Demonic forces time warp him — and his '73 Oldsmobile — into England's Dark Ages, where he romances a beauty (Embeth Davidtz) and faces legions of the undead.
The third film in the Evil Dead trilogy is many people’s favourite as it is undoubtedly the most outrageous of the three movies. Skeleton armies, a second Ash, a fatal sneeze/cough/slur and another Deadite girlfriend are just some of the things that make this film beloved. It’s also one of the most quotable pictures. Equipped with his boomstick and newly forged hand, Ash takes a medieval army and turns them into killers of the undead. Campbell never falters, bringing an improved level of machismo and comedy to fans to close out the series (though the franchise now continues on the small screen with Ash vs. Evil Dead). The great part about this release is it includes all three versions of the film, in which distinctions include different lines in some scenes (easily recognized by avid fans) and alternate endings.
Special features include: theatrical version, director’s cut and international cut of film; commentaries with Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell; making-of featurettes; deleted scenes; storyboards; still galleries; and a combination of new and vintage featurettes. (Scream Factory)
Bloody Knuckles (Blu-ray)
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Artsploitation Films
Travis (Adam Boys), an underground comic book artist with a penchant for obscene caricatures, upsets a Chinatown crime lord who responds by cutting off the young man’s hand. As a despondent, drunken Travis wallows in post-severed hand depression, his decomposing limb returns to life and is determined to exact revenge. Soon, Travis and his mischievous appendage join forces with a masked S&M superhero to rid the city of evil.
A cross between Evil Dead II, The Addams Family and Idle Hands, this picture centres on an appendage gone rogue with brutal and comic results. Like the famous, autonomous hand Thing, it appears capable of acting entirely independently of its former body. Writer/director Matt O'Mahoney successfully finds a balance between the outrageousness of the film’s plot and the slapstick it certainly demands. For the most part he avoids gross-out comedy, sticking to the vengeance plot that is more gory than disgusting. The general rule in this type of movie is “just go with it.” O'Mahoney also integrates messages about censorship and independent artists into the script. The cast appears to have fun with their roles, taking the film just seriously enough to avoid making it too ridiculous (in the context of a movie about a severed hand seeking revenge, obviously). However, the special effects that bring the hand to life are one of the most impressive elements of the picture.
Special features include: commentary by director Matt O.; deleted scenes; featurettes; and short films “Electric Fence” and “Adjust Tracking.” (Artsploitation Films)
Dope (Blu-ray)
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is a high school geek navigating life in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Inglewood, California. He and his fellow outcasts (Tony Revolori and Kiersey Clemons) share a voracious appreciation for all things '90s hip-hop. He dreams of attending Harvard, but first he has to make it home every day. When a drug dealer invites him to his birthday party, Malcolm’s crew is swirled into a blender of offbeat characters and bad choices where redemption can only be found in Bitcoin.
This is strangely a crime thriller made for a younger audience. It’s funny, modern and contains a fair amount of action that occurs over a brief period of time. Malcolm acts out of fear, but his instincts and intellect keep him one step ahead and alive. Though the premise and trailer reveal how he got into this mess, that’s not the only twist in his crazy adventure. The movie only superficially explores the Dark Web and Bitcoins as a currency, but for those unaware of their applications it’s more than enough to peak their curiosity. In between the comedy, Malcolm still faces some serious challenges and struggles with the amount of influence he allows his neighbourhood to have on his life. His friends, Jib and Diggy, are somewhat more immature but keep the otherwise dark mood light at times. The conclusion even has a John Hughes tone… if The Breakfast Club had been about inner city youth.
Special features include: “Dope is Different”; and music featurette. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Fifth Element (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
New York cab driver Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) didn’t mean to be a hero, but he just picked up the kind of fare that only comes along every five thousand years: a perfect beauty, a perfect being, a perfect weapon (Milla Jovovich). Together, they must save the world.
This sci-fi action adventure about aliens, asteroids, warmongers, prophecies and the Earth’s destruction even has a cameo by Luke Perry. But he’s not nearly the best part of the casting. Jovovich is unforgettable as the nearly speechless alien woman who smiles awkwardly, is a fierce warrior and carries the weight of a world that is not her own on her shoulders. Willis is once again the reluctant hero with a dark sense of humour; it’s always worked for him and there’s no reason not to like him reprising that role for this movie. Chris Tucker is by far one of the film’s highlights, portraying the flamboyant and faint-hearted radio host, Ruby Rhod, who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Director Luc Besson channels his fondness for the unconventional into this highly entertaining and sometimes ridiculous picture.
Special features include: “The Visual Element”; “The Digital Element”; “The Star Element”; “The Alien Element”; “The Fashion Element”; “The Diva”; “Imagining The Fifth Element”; and “The Elements of Style.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Horror Network (DVD)
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Wild Eye Releasing
Serial killers, ghostly phone calls, inner demons, otherworld monsters and creepy stalkers collide in this frightening anthology. Six of horror's most promising new directing talents join forces to pay homage to classic horror and weave an unforgettable, disturbing tapestry of terror.
Halloween often sees the release of several horror anthologies and they inevitably vary in quality. When compared to recent releases, Tales of Halloween and A Christmas Horror Story, this one simply doesn’t measure up. Created by six directors, the five stories each have some decent attributes but are subpar overall. There are two shorts that succeed as most memorable. One narrative is the disturbing recollection of a family’s violent history and the effect it continues to have on their lives; the other is the very atmospheric tale of the possible kidnapping of a partially deaf girl walking home from school. The remaining narratives include a haunted house, psychotic break and vague commentary on bigotry.
Special features include: extended cut of “The Deviant One”; and trailer. (Wild Eye Releasing)
Léon: The Professional (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Calling himself a “cleaner,” the mysterious Léon (Jean Reno) is New York’s top hitman. When his next-door neighbours are murdered, Léon becomes the unwilling guardian of the family’s sole survivor — 12-year-old Mathilda (Natalie Portman). But Mathilda doesn’t just want protection; she wants revenge. Training her in the deadly tricks of his trade, Léon helps her track the psychotic agent (Gary Oldman) who murdered her family.
This thriller is often referred to as it was Portman’s first feature film and launched the 13-year-old’s career as a kid who could handle adult content on screen. Though Léon is a great deal older than his new friend, they are both lost and alone. In spite of his violent profession, he is very caring; a trait demonstrated by his meticulous care of a green plant in his apartment. In fact Léon is thorough in everything he does; a characteristic Mathilda does not share with her latest guardian. In spite of her youth, she’s grown up fast and therefore thinks she knows more about life than her experience actually affords. The extended version contains a scene in which Mathilda professes her love for Léon and offers herself to him — a moment deemed too racy for American audiences.
Special features include: theatrical and extended versions of the film; “Cast and Crew Look Back”; “Jean Reno: The Road to Léon”; “Natalie Portman: Starting Young”; and theatrical trailer. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Max (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Warner Home Video
Max, a precision-trained military dog, serves on the front lines in Afghanistan until he loses his handler, U.S. Marine Kyle Wincott (Robbie Amell), in the line of duty. Traumatized, Max is sent stateside, where the only human he can connect with is Kyle’s brother, Justin (Josh Wiggins). The pair strikes up an unlikely friendship as they unravel a mystery that may deliver more excitement — and danger — than they bargained for.
The basic premise of this movie is entirely reminiscent of ‘80s and ‘90s pictures about an unbreakable bond between a boy and his dog, and their foreseeable teaming to stop a group of armed bad guys well out of their league. As a result of Max’s training, he’s an amazingly skilled K9 that anyone would be lucky to call friend. In spite of Kyle’s cynical exterior, he takes to Max fairly quickly and the two are soon inseparable. Anyone familiar with the genre knows to prepare for some moments of heartbreak as well as how the ending will inevitably play out. Generally it’s still a sweet movie with a sense of adventure. There’s also a featurette that looks at the many faces of Max and what it’s like to work with a four-legged actor.
Special features include: “Working with Max”; and “Hero Dogs: A Journey.” (Warner Home Video)
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Fox Home Entertainment
Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann) is a quirky teenager trying to coast through high school while making hilariously mediocre film parodies with his “co-worker” Earl (RJ Cyler). But when he is forced to spend time with Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a terminally ill classmate, at the request of his meddling mother, Greg embarks on his most ambitious project yet: to let his guard down and connect with those around him in ways he never imagined.
This is only director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s second feature film and considering the first was a reboot of The Town that Dreaded Sundown, one can’t help but be surprised by the emotional acuity he demonstrates in his sophomore picture. The chemistry between the three kids is incredible. Rachel enjoys the company of both boys, though connecting with Greg’s sense of humour turns out to be a lifeline for both of them. In addition to the production of Rachel’s movie, the hilarious mini-movies play a major role in the story. The opening two-thirds of the narrative is very light-hearted, sweeping audiences up into this envious friendship in which Greg and Rachel find they are kindred spirits without ever falling into the sappy love story trap. But as with the best and most memorable films about illness, it eventually faces the sadder aspects of her disease that leads to yet another inspiring moment in these characters’ lives.
Special features include: commentary by director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon; deleted scenes with optional commentary by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon; “This is Where You Learn How the Movie Was Made”; “Abstract: Movie for Rachel”; “A Conversation with Martin Scorsese and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon”; Greg Gaines and Earl Jackson Productions (shorts montage); Greg’s trailer; and gallery. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Paper Towns (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Fox Home Entertainment
Quentin (Nat Wolff) is a high school senior who has been in love with his enigmatic neighbor Margo (Cara Delevingne) since childhood. After taking him on an all-night adventure through their hometown, Margo suddenly disappears — leaving behind cryptic clues for Quentin to decipher. The search leads Quentin and his quick-witted friends on an exhilarating adventure.
Based on another book by the author of The Fault in our Stars, this teen drama explores love and friendship via a scavenger hunt across state lines. A seemingly popular trend in this genre at the moment is a lack of happy endings. The adolescent journey doesn’t necessarily lead down a path at the end of which they all live happily ever after; many of them simply emerged having learned a valuable lesson about living. Margo is incredibly eccentric, unquestionably lost and often selfish — traits that affect her relationships with everyone, including Quentin. He, on the other hand, is desperate to find meaning in the final year of high school, though he may be looking in the wrong place. In the span of a few days, Quentin and his friends experience everything most teens manage to spread out over a few years from running away to being drunk to sex; it would just be better if the couple at the centre of the story was more likeable.
Special features include: commentary by director Jake Schreier and author John Green; deleted scenes with optional commentary; alternate scene; making-of featurette; “John and Nat: Lightning Round”; “John and Cara: Lightning Round”; “Promotional Featurettes: Van Chats”; gag reel; gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Pixels (3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
When aliens misinterpret video-feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war against them, they attack the Earth using games like PAC-MAN™, Donkey Kong™, Galaga™, Centipede® and Space Invaders™ as models for their various assaults. President Will Cooper (Kevin James) has to call on his childhood best friend, ’80s video game champion Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) to lead a team of old-school arcaders (Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad) to defeat the aliens and save the planet.
The film starts in an ‘80s arcade when coin-operated machines were every kid’s favourite pastime and getting to the top of the leader’s board was a gamer’s only goal. Fast-forward to the present and somehow one of them is leading a country while the other three became a criminal, conspiracy theorist and home entertainment technician. It’s not long before recorded warnings delivered by ‘80s icons, such as Madonna and characters from Fantasy Island, arrive and bigger-than-life video game characters are destroying cities. The sequences in which they battle Centipede and Pac-Man are by far the most entertaining scenes in the movie and take advantage of the 3D viewpoint; the remainder of the film is mediocre, though it may have been better if it’d been edgier, rather than unnecessarily pandering to a PG audience.
Special features include: “Q*Bert”; “Dojo Quest”; “The Creator of the Machine”; “The Space Invader”; “PAC-MAN”; “Donkey Kong”; “Centipede”; and “Galaga.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Wayward Pines (DVD)
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Fox Home Entertainment
After a car crash he can’t remember, Secret Service agent Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) wakes up in a hospital in a strangely idyllic mountain town in Idaho. But the more Ethan tries to find out what happened to him, and to two missing agents, the more he discovers that nothing is as it seems in Wayward Pines. Desperate to learn the truth and return to his family, Ethan eventually unveils a terrifying secret that affects all of mankind.
This was a 10-episode event produced by M. Night Shyamalan and is roughly divided in half by the narrative. The first part is a Twilight Zone-style mystery in which nothing in the town is quite right even though it tries to assume an air of perfection. However there are a lot of whispers and the trigger-happy sheriff (Terrence Howard) has the let the power go to his head. However the second half of the narrative becomes a science fiction tale of survival at all costs. There is a lot of moral ambiguity and a number of threats the people of Wayward Pines never even considered. The last episode provides an exciting conclusion to the thought-provoking series that obviously draws some influence from The Planet of the Apes.
Special features include: “Where Paradise is Home: A Wayward Pines Style Guide”; and “Creating a Mythology.” (Fox Home Entertainment)