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Review: New on DVD for March 15 Special

Posted Mar 15, 2016 by Sarah Gopaul
This week’s releases include an Oscar-winning film with purpose; several one-man armies; a story of devotion and despair; and a well-crafted murder mystery.
A scene from  The Big Short
A scene from 'The Big Short'
Paramount Home Media Distribution
The Big Short (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Untitled
Paramount Home Media Distribution
The film details the true story of four outsiders who risked everything to take on the big banks during the greatest financial fraud in U.S. history.
As noted in the film, these deals are filled with jargon and made incredibly complicated because they don’t want you to understand. Nonetheless, this movie manages to break it all down and make it accessible to everyone. Filmmakers want you to be able to comprehend the extent of the scandal that occurred and could happen again. The cast is one of the best groups of talent, including Steve Carrell, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt. And in spite of the lacklustre subject matter, everyone pulls together to make a picture that is both informative and entertaining. It may still take more than one viewing to really wrap your head around what it all means, but the story’s importance and the efforts to make it plain are immediately clear.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “In the Tranches: Casting”; “The Big Leap: Adam McKay”; “Unlikely Heroes: The Characters of The Big Short”; “The House of Cards: The Rise of the Fall”; and “Getting Real: Recreating an Era.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Braddock: Missing In Action III (Blu-ray)
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Shout Factory
When Colonel James Braddock (Chuck Norris) is told that his wife and 12-year-old son are still alive in Communist Vietnam, he mounts a one-man assault to free them. Armed with the latest high-tech firepower, Braddock fights his way into the heart of the country, and ends up battling his way out with several dozen abused children in tow. Struggling to protect the kids while outmaneuvering the sadistic Vietnamese officer General Quoc, Braddock ignites the jungles in a blazing race for freedom.
This final movie in Norris’ trilogy begins with a well-known event at the end of the Vietnam War as citizens swarmed the U.S. embassy begging to be evacuated with the Americans. In this narrative, a series of forced coincidences lead to Braddock abandoning his wife to live an impoverished existence. More than a decade later the local army is shown to be unnecessarily cruel, which evidently justifies Braddock’s show-no-mercy approach to his one-man rescue mission. He’s of course aided by the enemy’s poor aim and stupidity as he outwits them rather easily to liberate a group of orphans, steal a truck and plane, and blow-up sections of the country.
There are no special features. (Shout Factory)
Close Range (Blu-ray)
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VVS Films
After rescuing his kidnapped niece from a powerful drug cartel, Colton MacReady (Scott Adkins) begins a relentless fight to save his family. The cartel has descended upon his secluded ranch with a thirst for revenge. What ensues is a non-stop assault on the ranch, where Colton will stop at nothing to protect his loved ones.
Following in a long tradition of military-trained vigilantes, the ironically named Colton MacReady is a one-man army. Without explanation, the movie begins with him infiltrating a drug dealer’s hideout and taking on multiple, armed opponents with nothing but a small blade. Unfortunately his flawless rescue is made imperfect by his lack of attention to detail, which results in a number of innocent deaths and unnecessary trouble. One element that’s out of character for this genre is Colton’s tolerance of his brother-in-law’s dangerous, illegal activities that in turn puts his family at risk. But that’s likely too in-depth for this superficial shoot ’em up that manages not to level every building in the vicinity.
There are no special features. (VVS Films)
Coming Home (Blu-ray)
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Lu (Chen Daoming) and Yu (Gong Li) are a devoted couple forced to separate when Lu is arrested and sent to a labour camp as a political prisoner during the Cultural Revolution. When Lu is released years later, he returns home to find his beloved wife has amnesia and remembers little of her past. Unable to recognize him, she still patiently awaits her husband’s return. A stranger within his own family, Lu is determined to awaken his wife’s memory through gentle displays of unconditional and eternal love.
The film is based on the end of a rather long novel that primarily depicts Lu’s imprisonment; however, filmmakers decided to extrapolate that idea into a feature-length movie. The timelines in the film are rather broad as “a few years” pass here and there, but the influence of time on their relationships is not lost. Though the premise is similar to a couple of Nicholas Sparks’ romances, this love story is more heartbreaking than uplifting. With no clear explanation for Yu’s condition, Lu and their daughter try various methods of returning her memory only to find further sorrow with every touching new attempt. The actors are necessarily excellent, often conveying powerful emotions in just a look.
Special features include: commentary by director Zhang Yimou; and Toronto International Film Festival Q & A with Zhang Yimou. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Game of Thrones: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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HBO Home Entertainment
At Castle Black, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) struggles to balance the demands of the Night's Watch with those of newly-arrived Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), who styles himself the rightful king of Westeros. Meanwhile, Cersei (Lena Headey) scrabbles to hold on to power in King's Landing amidst the Tyrells and the rise of a religious group led by the enigmatic High Sparrow, while Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) embarks on a secret mission. Across the Narrow Sea, Arya (Maisie Williams) seeks an old friend while a fugitive Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) finds a new cause. And as danger mounts in Meereen, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) finds that her tenuous hold on the city requires some hard sacrifices.
When compared to previous seasons, in spite of the characteristic feuds and upsets, this one is less earth-shattering save for events in the final episode. Cersei finally outmanoeuvres herself and is forced to face the rather humiliating consequences of her actions; though it will fuel her fire next season. Jon Snow is involved in an epic and rather disturbing battle at the edge of the sea with some rather interesting and upsetting results. Stannis’ determination becomes increasingly repulsive, while events in The North become similarly difficult to stomach. The latest leg in Arya’s journey is rather mysterious, though the fates of her brothers remains entirely absent from the narrative. Jaime and Bronn’s reunion results in some much missed humour, while Tyrion remains a source of amusing yet accurate observations. Finally, there’s no shortage of fascination in this chapter as the season’s new characters and locations are always a source of curiosity (and good reason for an exploratory bonus feature).
Special features include: 12 commentaries by cast and crew; deleted scenes; “In-episode Guide”; “New Characters/New Locations”; “The Dance of Dragons”; “Histories and Lore”; “Anatomy of an Episode: Mother’s Mercy”; “The Real History Behind Game of Thrones”; and “A Day in the Life.” (HBO Home Entertainment)
Invasion U.S.A. (Blu-ray)
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Shout Factory
An army of terrorist mercenaries led by Soviet agent Rostov (Richard Lynch) catches America unprepared and makes it a war zone from sea to shining sea. Only one man can stem the rising tide of violence: retired agent and martial arts expert Matt Hunter (Chuck Norris). Leading the United States Army into guerilla warfare on its own turf, Hunter won't stop until every last bazooka-wielding enemy is taken out.
Norris built his film career around movies in which he starred as a one-man wrecking crew ready to right wrongs and eliminate America’s enemies. In this story, he and Rostov have history that needs to be resolved. But like many of his action hero counterparts, Hunter refuses to get involved again – until it becomes personal. Then, as if reading a magic crystal ball, he anticipates every one of his opponents’ moves and shows up to intercept their plans for destruction. Once again, in spite of being recruited for a seemingly elite army of terrorists, the bad guys prove to be terrible shots with more brawn than brains. The concluding stand-off is a rather ridiculous display of American military and firepower, yet the shootout seems to needlessly go on longer than is feasible. In fact, the characters’ abilities are so imbalanced it’s often laughable – which is still entertaining, even if it wasn’t intended.
Special features include: commentary by director Joseph Zito; “Loose Cannons”; “Cannon Carnage: The Make-up Effects of Invasion U.S.A.”; still gallery; TV spot; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)
Mayday (DVD)
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Acorn
In a quaint English village seeped in pagan traditions, the highlight of May Day is the traditional parade. But when the May Queen, 14-year-old Hattie Sutton (Leila Mimmack) disappears shortly before the event, the residents grow suspicious that someone among them might have taken her. The shocking realization that there could be a killer in the community shatters the façade of idyllic small-town life.
This five-part miniseries is actually rather gripping as a number of the characters begin to suspect those closest to them guilty of the crime – if a crime was committed at all. While distrust poisons familial relationships, there is still rumour and possibility pointing to Hattie’s disappearance being a runaway case rather than one involving foul play. There’s very little attempt to represent the formal investigation, instead focusing on the informal inquiry by Hattie’s friends, family and neighbours as they dig into the lives of their loved ones and attempt to determine if they’re capable of murder. The cast is excellent and perfectly suited to their roles in this pressure cooker of lies and doubt. However, even if the viewer foresees the ending, they’ll likely still be surprised by its unfolding.
Special features include: making-of featurette; and photo gallery. (Acorn)