Review: New on DVD for October 25 Special

Posted Oct 28, 2016 by Sarah Gopaul
This week’s releases include the latest chapter in a series of horrific stories; Woody Allen’s latest project; a couple of classic tales of terror; and the newest apocalyptic adventure of an extended prehistoric family.
Jeff Goldblum and Liam Hemsworth in a scene from  Independence Day: Resurgence
Jeff Goldblum and Liam Hemsworth in a scene from 'Independence Day: Resurgence'
Fox Home Entertainment
American Horror Story: Hotel (Blu-ray)
Fox Home Entertainment
A string of grisly murders is traced back to the sinister, sensuous Countess (Lady Gaga), an infamous resident of the stylish Hotel Cortez in Downtown Los Angeles.
This is the series’ fifth season and therefore fifth storyline. The show’s mainstays return in new roles, including Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson, Denis O'Hare, Angela Bassett and Evan Peters, while there’s also an array of newer faces, such as Lady Gaga (who won a Golden Globe for her role), Chloë Sevigny and Wes Bentley. It’s not the strongest of the show’s narratives as some of the supporting stories are more interesting than the ones given more credence by showrunners. Nonetheless, the exotic history composed for the hotel and its permanent occupants is rather fascinating and definitely the stuff of legends. However, in the final three episodes the story goes into wrap-up mode, consequently losing all of its momentum and disrupting the flow.
Special features include: “An Invitation to Devil’s Night”; and “The Cortez: An Era of Elegance Gone By.” (Fox Home Entertainment)
Café Society (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Set in the 1930s, Bronx-born Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) moves to Hollywood, where he falls in love, and then heads back to New York with his colorful Bronx family, where he is swept up in the vibrant world of high society nightclub life.
This is an opulent picture with lovely period sets, costumes and dialogue that mixes Woody Allen’s self-deprecating humour with ‘30s slang. The film is essentially split into two halves — in the first, Bobby is a lonely and desperate novice willing to do anything to get his foot into Hollywood’s door; in the second, he’s transferred his southern confidence to be on top of the world up north, running one his hometown’s most popular clubs. Steve Carell plays Bobby’s producer uncle who agrees to give him a menial job because he’s family, while also experiencing a mid-life crisis that leads to vague-not-so-vague confessions. Kristen Stewart portrays Bobby’s love interest who is clear early on about being unavailable, yet still spends most of her spare time with him. As per usual, the cast is a gathering of familiar names and faces who’ve come together to make Allen’s latest movie another great addition to his oeuvre.
Special features include: “On the Red Carpet”; and photo gallery. (Lionsgate)
Carrie: Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
At the centre of the terror is Carrie (Sissy Spacek), a high school loner with no confidence, no friends and no idea about the extent of her secret powers of telekinesis. But when her psychotic mother and sadistic classmates finally go too far, the once-shy teen becomes an unrestrained, vengeance-seeking powerhouse who, with the help of her "special gift," causes all hell to break loose.
The film is a departure from Stephen King’s book, which was written more as a procedural. This is the narrative of a young woman who has suffered a great deal at the hands of her mother and peers. Carrie’s mistreatment is shown in cringeworthy detail so that when she discovers the means to take her revenge, audiences may understand why it’s so brutal and absolute. It’s equally heartbreaking to watch her reaction to the simplest kindness that most people take for granted. Spacek is unforgettable as the tormented teen, flawlessly portraying her pain and frustration. Piper Laurie is also memorable as the fanatical, abusive mother, while John Travolta’s early attempt at villainy is now linked to one of cinema’s most famous scenes. Director Brian De Palma expertly weaves this supernatural tale, focusing on the accosting aesthetic as much as the story.
Special features include: “Acting Carrie”; “More Acting Carrie”; “Writing Carrie”; “Cutting Carrie”; “Shooting Carrie”; “Casting Carrie”; “Bucket of Blood”; “Horror's Hallowed Grounds”; “Visualizing Carrie”; “A Look At ‘Carrie: The Musical’"; “Stephen King And The Evolution Of Carrie” text gallery; TV and radio spots; still gallery; and trailers. (Scream Factory)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Two master warriors (Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh) are faced with their greatest challenge when the treasured 400-year old Green Destiny sword is stolen by a mysterious masked thief. A young aristocrat (Zhang Ziyi) prepares for an arranged marriage, but soon reveals her superior fighting talents and her deeply romantic past. As each warrior battles for justice, they come face-to-face with their worst enemy — and the inescapable, enduring power of love.
When this film was released 16 years ago, it was a source of wonder and amazement. Bringing wire fu into the mainstream in North America opened the door for a whole new range of pictures to capture audience’s imaginations without the need to seek out specialty dealers or cinemas. Watching the actors perform precisely planned choreography while flying through the air and jumping between poles is still breathtaking. Moreover, the tale that unfolds is mesmerizing. The characters’ backstories are epic and also introduced the intricate art of Chinese storytelling to some Western viewers. The film also put the spotlight on director Ang Lee, who produced a film that’s stood the test of time and remains a stunning picture even today. After garnering such attention, he’d go on to win two best directing Oscars for films that continued to push the narrative and visual envelopes.
Special features include: commentary by director Ang Lee and co-screenwriter James Schamus; commentary by cinematographer Peter Pau; new deleted scenes; retrospective interviews; making-of featurette; “A Conversation with Michelle Yeoh”; “A Love Before Time” music video; photo gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Ice Age: Collision Course (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
Scrat’s epic pursuit of the elusive acorn accidently triggers cosmic events that threaten the world. Now Buck (Simon Pegg), Manny (Ray Romano), Ellie (Queen Latifah), Sid (John Leguizamo), Diego (Denis Leary) and the rest of the herd must work together on a journey to survive the global Scrat-tastrophe.
Everyone already loves these characters, so when they add a new film to the franchise their goal is less to add something innovative and more to satisfy the already existing fan base. Understanding this is the key to enjoying these pictures — it’s more of the same, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still entertaining. Of course their journey also brings them into contact with a host of new and interesting characters, including a hippie camel, a female sloth and a group of dino-birds with bad attitudes. Meanwhile, Manny is dealing with the impending implosion of his own world as Peaches plans her wedding to a very laidback mammoth. And in between all the drama, viewers get a regular glimpse at Scrat’s outer-space adventures.
Special features include: “Scrat: Spaced Out Mini-Movie”; “Ice Age: The Story So Far”; “Scratasia: Scrat’s Solo Adventures”; “Mysteries of the Scratazons”; “Star Signs of the Animal Kingdom”; “The Science of It All: deGrasse Tyson deBunks”; “Figaro Sing-along”; and photo gallery. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Independence Day: Resurgence (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Fox Home Entertainment
Using recovered alien technology, the nations of Earth developed a vast defense program to protect the planet, led by brilliant scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum). But nothing could prepare them for a new invasion of unprecedented scale — and only the ingenuity of a few brave men and women can save the world from extinction.
Taking place 20 years after the original film’s events (which was coincidentally also released 20 years ago), this movie imagines a future of advanced technology that includes unconventional weaponry and aircrafts. Yet when the aliens arrive full-scale, all the innovation cannot protect them from their returning enemies. Everything in this movie is on a bigger scale — the alien spacecraft spans continents, the aliens are bigger and more prepared, and their goal is much greater. The returning cast reprise their roles flawlessly, but their presence is both a benefit and a weakness. Dr. Okun (Brent Spiner) remains one of the film’s most amusing characters and David is still awkwardly funny, but the increased attention afforded his father (Judd Hirsch) and the less than glamorous life of the former president feel very gimmicky. Nonetheless, most of the attention is focused on the new heroes (Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe and Jessie T. Usher) and their inherited drive to save the world.
Special features include: commentary by director Roland Emmerich; deleted scenes; making of featurette; “The War of 1996”; “It’s Early, ABQ!”; concept art; gag reel; TV spot; theatrical trailer. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Raising Cain: Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
Carter Nix (John Lithgow) is a respected psychologist, loving husband and devoted father who decides to take a year off to help raise his daughter. Carter's wife Jenny is pleased to have her attentive husband home – at first. When Carter shows obsessive behaviour toward their daughter, Jenny becomes concerned, and to complicate matters, Jenny's old flame re-enters her life. But nothing can prepare her for the emergence of Carter's multiple personalities, and a fiendish plot to recreate the infamous experiments of his deranged father.
This is undoubtedly one of Lithgow’s most accomplished performances. Playing multiple characters with incredibly different personalities, the actor is allowed to explore a spectrum of emotions and attitudes. Carter is mild-mannered and squeamish, while Cain is ruthless and charming. It’s somewhat of a one-man show, but the supporting roles are important to bringing out the distinct individuals. Nonetheless, the most notable part of this release is the inclusion of a director’s cut that reorders the scenes from the theatrical version based on Brian De Palma’s original script. Having been pressured to rearrange the sequence of events due to confused test audiences, the theatrical edition lost its suspense and a proper introduction to Cain. The director’s cut is definitely the better version of the film, so its inclusion is much appreciated.
Special features include: theatrical version and director’s cut of the film; interviews with actors John Lithgow, Steven Bauer, Gregg Henry, Tom Bower, Mel Harris and editor Paul Hirsch; “Changing Cain: Brian De Palma's Cult Classic Restored”; and “Raising Cain Re-Cut – A Video Essay By Peet Gelderblom.” (Scream Factory)
Road House: Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray)
Shout Select
Dalton (Patrick Swayze) is the best bar bouncer in the business, but he's anything but "typical." He's a little small for his trade, has a degree in philosophy and he believes in "being nice." But when he's hired to clean up the Double Deuce in the small town of Jasper, he's pushed to his breaking point. Turns out Jasper is controlled by an evil sadist (Ben Gazzara) who doesn't want anyone meddling with "his" town. After he sends his goons to bust up the Double Deuce, all hell breaks loose. Now it's "no more nice guy" for Dalton as he starts busting heads, leading him to the all-time, no-holds-barred showdown of the century.
Although Swayze made a lot of movies throughout his career, which was sadly cut short, there are three that stand out for most fans: Dirty Dancing, Ghost and Road House. The moment Jeff Healey announces without prompting, “The name is Dalton,” to introduce the efficient enforcer is the moment the movie really begins. It’s undoubtedly an ‘80s movie that’s also a contemporary throwback to Westerns, depicting a small town where the richest man rules ruthlessly until a hero rolls into town and determines to take it back for the people. In between all the fighting, Dalton also manages to make a few friends and fall in love. The appearance of Sam Elliott as Dalton’s former mentor is such an unexpected treat as he charms everyone he meets and mirrors his protégé’s approach to containing the situation.
Special features include: commentary by director Rowdy Herrington; commentary by Road House fans Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier; making-of featurette; “Remembering Patrick; “A Conversation with director Rowdy Herrington”; “Pain Don’t Hurt: The Stunts of Road House”; “The Music of Road House”; “What Would Dalton Do?”; “On the Road House”; vintage interviews with Patrick Swayze, Ben Gazzara, Kelly Lynch, Sam Elliot, Benny Urquidez and Rowdy Herrington; on the set: behind-the-scenes footage; vintage profile on Patrick Swayze; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Select)
Skiptrace (Blu-ray)
For years, by-the-book Hong Kong detective Benny Chan (Jackie Chan) has tried to avenge his partner’s murder at the hands of a drug lord. When Benny learns that freewheeling American gambler Connor Watts (Johnny Knoxville) has the evidence he needs, he teams with Connor to get justice. Now all Benny and Connor have to do is survive the fight of their lives — and each other.
This movie is essentially a one-trick pony on a closed circuit: Benny captures Connor, Connor escapes, Benny captures Connor, and round and round we go. Luckily the actors are rather likeable and the shticks are pretty funny, so it’s not the worst comedy loop in which to be stuck. A cross between a buddy cop comedy and a road trip movie, the duo travel through some strange territory while being chased by a group of assassins determined to prevent Connor from revealing any evidence against them. The camaraderie between Chan and Knoxville appears genuine as they play off of each other verbally and physically, seamlessly delivering the scripted jokes and fighting the bad guys who always seem to find them. Definitely not one of director Renny Harlin’s most memorable action flicks, but it’s passable.
Special features include: commentary by director Renny Harlin; and “When Jackie Met Johnny.” (Lionsgate)