Review: This week’s releases range from hilarious to heartbreaking Special

Posted Jun 23, 2016 by Sarah Gopaul
This week’s releases include new high-def editions of classic sci-fi series; a well-lived comedy featuring a talented cast; a few library titles from some familiar actors’ early careers; and a thriller with an otherworldly twist.
A scene from  Midnight Special
A scene from 'Midnight Special'
Warner Bros. Pictures
A Home of Our Own (Blu-ray)
Olive Films
Hardworking mother and widow, Frances Lacey (Kathy Bates) is just trying to make ends meet when she’s fired from her job at a local potato chip company. Adding insult to injury, her son Shayne (Edward Furlong) is brought to her door by the police for stealing change from local payphones. Deciding it’s time for a fresh start, Frances and her six children pull up stakes in Los Angeles and move to rural Idaho. In search of a better life, Frances and her children — whom she dubs the “Lacey Clan” — spot an unfinished house and decide to do whatever it takes, no matter the challenges and adversity, to buy the property and build a home of their own.
This is a classic tale of hardship-turned-feel-good story as the Lacey Clan encounter a lot of obstacles and get frequently knocked down only to get back up and keep going. An adult Shayne narrates the story, reflecting on events while describing how they influenced his future. Frances follows a tough love approach, asking more than most do of children because they have so little to start. But it’s also obvious to everyone else when she’s asked too much, for which she heartbreakingly suffers the consequences. Bates is perfectly suited for this role as she embodies the part of a mom who exceedingly cares but has to play the cards she’s been dealt. Furlong is also well selected as he goes back and forth between “man of the house” and exasperated child.
There are no special features. (Olive Films)
Appointment with Crime (Blu-ray)
Olive Films
Leo Martin (William Hartnell), a “smash & grab” thief working for crime boss Gus Loman (Raymond Lovell), is caught by the police during a robbery gone wrong that leaves his wrists broken. Abandoned by Loman at the scene of the crime, Martin vows revenge against the boss who left him to shoulder the blame.
This film could have also been called “My wrists!” as it’s a phrase uttered several times throughout the picture. Even in black-and-white, a young Hartnell has dark, intimidating eyes that create the belief he is truly capable of carrying out any of the many threats he delivers to his enemies. However, at the same time that he executes his revenge plot, he is also courting a young woman who is sort of a prostitute. These two sides of his personality are undoubtedly in conflict, but the need to choose between them decides whether he is or could be a good person in the end. This British production is a relatively slow film noir that doesn’t pack quite the same punch as its American cousins.
There are no special features. (Olive Films)
Cornbread, Earl and Me (Blu-ray)
Olive Films
Set against the gritty urban sprawl of Chicago, a group of adolescent friends are forced to face adulthood when tragedy strikes.
It’s both astonishing and sad that a film built around the social commentary of 1975 depicts a scene that continues to occur more than 40 years later. A young Laurence Fishburne bears witness to the senseless killing of a promising young man by police. Although it’s obviously a mistake, the indifference and strong-arming encountered as his family and friends try to clear his name is more than disheartening because the subtler narratives are so common. To prevent the story from being about black vs. white but rather a systemic problem, one of the officers involved is played by Bernie Casey and is portrayed as an equal part of the problem. The opening character introductions are a little hokey and some of the incidents (hopefully) over-the-top, but the performances are solid and the message is clear.
There are no special features. (Olive Films)
How to Get Away With Murder: The Complete Second Season (DVD)
ABC Studios
As the body count rises, Frank (Charlie Weber), Bonnie (Liza Weil) and the “Keating Five” dive into a docket of daunting new cases. Meanwhile, the shocking discovery of who killed Rebecca leads into the mystery of who shot Annalise (Viola Davis). But instead of answers, this development will set the stage for a series of shocking secrets, bitter betrayals and gasp-worthy revelations that will prove beyond all reasonable doubt, that under the right circumstances, anyone can be a killer.
Although the mystery of Rebecca’s murder was last season’s cliff-hanger, the whodunit is resolved rather quickly this season. However, what becomes more interesting are the decreasingly brief flashes of Annalise lying in a pool of her own blood. The whole picture is eventually revealed midway through the season, leaving the characters to deal with the consequences of the shooting and surrounding events. The number of secrets revealed this time is raised exponentially as things from the recent and distant past begin to play a role in the present. Unfortunately, one of the key characteristics of this season is its growing likeness to a primetime soap/drama in which everyone is sleeping together and everyone is shrouded in traumatic mystery. Hopefully they get back on the thriller track next season.
Special features include: deleted scenes and bloopers. (ABC Studios)
The League Complecenterries Set (DVD)
Fox Home Entertainment
The series follows a group of friends and the annual antics of their fantasy football league. Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi) is a happily married father and commissioner of the league. Jenny (Katie Aselton) is Kevin’s wife and his better half — especially when it comes to Fantasy Football. Pete (Mark Duplass) is the perennial league champ who is struggling to become an adult. Taco (Jon Lajoie) is Kevin’s little brother, a part-time musician and full-time stoner with little interest in fantasy other than hanging with his buddies (whom he struggles to remember). Ruxin (Nick Kroll) believes he is the smartest of the group, but can't figure out how exactly the other guys are screwing him over. And Andre (Paul Scheer) has continued to be the punching bag of the group since their high school days — a fact that hasn’t changed despite the fact he is now a successful plastic surgeon.
Each 13-episode season (save for the first that is only six episodes) revolves around one NFL year, beginning with the annual and unique draft, and ending with the presentation of “The Shiva Bowl Trophy,” named after a high school classmate, and later, “The Sacko Bowl,” which is awarded to the league’s last place member. Although the general antics are similar each season, they’re always funny and feature a new twist or hapless victim. The gag reel included each season demonstrates their improv abilities and numerous options for each insult or rant. The personalities are consistent, never suddenly acting out of character and always valuing fantasy football above all else. Each season they also seem to encounter someone outside of their group who is also in a league and the outcomes are always entertaining. The series finale isn’t necessarily conclusive as they will continue playing, but it does take the characters to some unexpected places.
Special features include: extended and unrated episodes; deleted and extended scenes; gag reels; and improv reels. (Fox Home Entertainment)
The Midnight After (DVD)
Well Go USA
In Hong Kong, a group of 16 people on a city bus emerge from a tunnel to find the entire population of the city has vanished. The newly-dead: instantly decaying. Ominous glimpses of men in gas masks. What’s happened to the world, and how far would you go to get your life back?
This movie has no definitive description as it never really seems to decide what’s happening. City names and time stamps frequently flash on the screen, but they don’t seem to serve the story. The survivors are infected by something, but other than some similar spots all of their symptoms appear to be different. There’s also a number of random events, such as a mysterious call from the future, a coded message, a rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and a gratuitous sexual assault, that are examined but with few results. In the meantime, the ragtag group of characters make a lot of senseless choices before finally committing to a plan and abruptly concluding the movie.
There are no special features. (Well Go USA)
Midnight Special (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
What starts as a race from religious extremists and local law enforcement quickly escalates to a nationwide manhunt involving the highest levels of the Federal Government. Risking everything, Roy (Michael Shannon) and his friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton) are committed to helping Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) reach his ultimate purpose, whatever that might be and whatever it costs, in a story that takes audiences on a perilous journey from Texas to the Florida coast, while exploring the bonds of love and trust, and the nature of faith.
There is no preamble to the main narrative. The story begins with Roy, Lucas and Alton already on the run, trying to avoid detection. Their pursuers are equally important to the story, even if they do represent the film’s antagonists. The cult worships Alton, believing he is a messenger from God that will save them at the Reckoning. However, they also use him and greedily cling to him for the own ends. The government is concerned he is some sort of weapon sent to spy on them or worse. Their investigation offers important narrative information to the viewer as they attempt to understand what is happening. The majority of the two-hour sci-fi picture is an absorbing, mysterious and often thrilling cross-country cat-and-mouse chase. As the story gradually unfolds, the audience’s comprehension of it is also evolving until they finally catch-up with Alton’s family and then experience all the new developments with equal wonder.
Special features include: “Origins”; and “The Unseen World.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
One More Time (DVD)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Rattling around in his mansion in the Hamptons, faded Sinatra-esque crooner and notorious ladies’ man Paul Lombard (Christopher Walken) stews over the acclaim that eluded him in his career and the trail of romantic wreckage he left in his wake. Matters are complicated when his punk rocker daughter, Jude (Amber Heard), arrives in need of a place to stay and burdened with problems of her own, including a rivalry with her overachieving sister, her own ruinous love life, and above all, a fraught relationship with her famous father.
This is a rather bland drama about a washed up singer and his troubled family. Paul is not the regretful father apologizing for past mistakes, but instead trying to recapture his glory days with a new single and greater focus on his career. When Jude arrives on his doorstep, he initially tries to offer quick fixes before allowing her to stay. Her musical ambitions were obviously inspired by her father at some point and she promptly accompanies him on the piano when necessary, but no one in her family respects her talent or ambition. As a result, they’re constantly butting heads and the conclusion is filled with false sentiment.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Regression (DVD)
Anchor Bay Entertainment & Elevation Pictures
Minnesota, 1990. Detective Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke) investigates the case of young Angela (Emma Watson), who accuses her father, John Gray (David Dencik), of an unspeakable crime. When John unexpectedly and without recollection admits guilt, renowned psychologist Dr. Raines (David Thewlis) is brought in to help him relive his memories and what they discover unmasks a horrifying nationwide mystery.
In the ‘80s, there was what many now refer to as “Satanic panic.” As heavy metal and outcasts embraced the symbolism and fear of devil worship, witch hunts and the prosecution of innocents began to once again stifle the country. While most stories focus on the accused, this film looks at the phenomenon from an investigator’s perspective. Kenner is appalled by Angela’s accounts of abuse at the hands of her family. As those involved seem to have repressed their participation, Raines sees this case as the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the power of regression therapy. However, this narrative illustrates how even those trained to thoroughly analyze a situation can become caught up in the emotion of such an abhorrent indictment.
There are no special features. (Elevation Pictures)
Rollercoaster (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
A determined terrorist (Timothy Bottoms) turns America's amusement parks into battlefields, while affable safety inspector Harry Calder (George Segal) attempts to track down the saboteur who has targeted the country's most popular rollercoasters and its riders for senseless destruction.
It feels as if this movie was trying to capture the fear created by thrillers such as Jaws, but in an amusement park. Many people are already suspicious of the safety of these rides, so the terrorist preys on their anxieties and tries to make them afraid to even go into the parks. Unfortunately, it’s simply not very scary and the cat-and-mouse chase is anti-climactic as the two men try and fail to outsmart each other. The final standoff, although appropriate for the narrative, is really rather silly as the terrorist gets his comeuppance in a manner reminiscent of the old studio days in which the villain had to be punished for his evil deeds.
Special features include: original SENSURROUND® soundtrack; interview with associate producer/writer Tommy Cook; still gallery; radio spots; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)
Star Trek: The Original Series: The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and the crew of the Starship Enterprise explore the Galaxy and defend the United Federation of Planets.
It’s impossible to have foretold that this sci-fi series would have the impact it has had on the cultural zeitgeist. In addition to still being a revered TV show, it spawned a number of spin-offs, movies and documentaries that have emerged over the last 50 years and given audiences new space adventures. The crew was uniquely diverse and the aliens they encountered were well-constructed. Each episode presented a new story and Kirk could often be found seducing a female species (though no one ever questioned their biological compatibility). The planet of Tribbles is still a favourite and one-liners from many of the characters are still uttered in conversations today. The special series take fans behind the curtain with vintage video, as well as looking at how being on the show affected the careers of its forever recognizable actors. Live long and prosper.
Special features include: “Spacelift: Transporting Trek Into the 21st Century”; “Reflections on Spock”; “Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories” parts 1-3; “Writer's Notebook: D.C. Fontana”; “Trials and Tribble-ations: An Historic Endeavor”; “Star Trek's Divine Diva: Nichelle Nichols”; “Life Beyond Trek: Walter Koenig”; “Star Trek's Impact”; “Collectible Trek”; “Captain's Log: Bob Justman”; preview trailers; and more. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Set decades after Captain Kirk's five-year mission, a new generation of Starfleet officers set off in a new Enterprise on their own mission to go where no one has gone before.
This series reinvented the original narrative, populating the crew with additional aliens so it would be more representative of the universe’s version of the United Nations and taking them on “new adventures to explore strange new worlds.” Launching nearly 20 years after the initial series, this show is able to use numerous special effects improvements to its advantage. As a result, the variety of characters and the quality of the technology and visuals all received an upgrade. Yet it remained similar and recognizable, satisfying admirers of the original and attracting a new fan base. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) became an icon and his crew some of the most memorable. From training in a high-tech virtual reality chamber to traveling through time to save a member of team to love interests that lurked beneath the surface for years, this series entertained audiences for seven seasons. Of course it would be eventually surpassed by newer versions of the show, which boast the same advantages this show had over its predecessor; yet the popularity gained by this series has never been matched by its successors.
Special features include: commentary on select episodes; deleted scenes; “Reunification: 25 years after Star Trek: The Next Generation”; “Inside the Writer’s Room”; “Introduction to the Series”; “Energized! Taking the Next Generation to the Next Level”; “Stardate Revisited: The Origin of Star Trek: The Next Generation” parts one to three; “The Beginning”; “Selected Crew Analysis”; “The Making of a Legend”; “Energized! Season Two Tech Update”; "The Measure of a Man"; “Make it So: Continuing Star Trek: The Next Generation” parts one to three; “Resistance is Futile -- Assimilating Star Trek: The Next Generation”; “Relativity: The Family Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation” parts one and two; “Alien Speak”; “Requiem: A Remembrance of Star Trek: The Next Generation” parts one and two; “Beyond the Five Year Mission -- The Evolution of Star Trek: The Next Generation” parts one to three; “In Conversation” with art and music departments; archival mission logs; departmental briefings; and gag reels (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Underground: Season One (DVD)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Set in a desperate and dangerous time, the series tells the story of revolutionaries on the Underground Railroad who use their ingenuity, power and perseverance to attempt the greatest escape in history in spite of the dire consequences that await them on the other side.
This is an incredibly intense drama that exerts significant effort to ensure it depicts the realities of slavery. As a result, it can be very difficult to watch at times as people are beaten, raped, murdered and sold. However, it’s this same authenticity that makes the series so good and worth watching. The cast is excellent, clearly taking their roles and the history of their characters very seriously no matter which side they are on at any given moment. There are two slaves at the centre of the story, played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Aldis Hodge, but there are others whose strength and struggles draw equal attention. Surprisingly, Christopher Meloni is not one of the good guys in this narrative, portraying a persistent and nefarious slave catcher. The stories are compelling and often heart-wrenching, but it will be interesting to see how certain characters adapt to their new responsibilities next season.
Special features include: two episode commentaries with Misha Green and Joe Pokaski; “The Music of Underground”; “The Journey of Underground”; “The Characters of Macon”; gag reel; and camera test with an introduction by Misha Green and Joe Pokaski. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)