Review: Protecting people isn’t just a job in this week’s releases Special

Posted Nov 22, 2017 by Sarah Gopaul
This week’s releases include an amazing comedy team-up; a movie based on a book that is not an adaptation; a dark but thought-provoking TV series; a major departure for an actor; and a kickass action movie with a lot of twists.
A scene from  The Dark Tower
A scene from 'The Dark Tower'
Sony Pictures
Birth of the Dragon (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
In the world of martial arts, there is one man above all: Bruce Lee. In 1960s San Francisco, Lee (Phillip Ng) was young, hungry and looking for an opportunity to make a name for himself. That opportunity came when the legendary Shaolin monk, Wong Jack Man (Xia Yu) came into town to observe the state of kung fu in America. Lee challenges Wong to a fight, one that would change the history of martial arts forever.
Numerous films and TV series have depicted Lee’s rise to becoming the most well-known martial artist in America. This one focuses on a particular, covert fight that did occur under similar circumstances as those portrayed in the movie… but the rest of the narrative surrounding that event is hyperbole. Though urban legend states the contest occurred to punish Lee for teaching kung fu to non-Chinese students, that theory is widely disputed and thought to have more to do with his unabashed personality. Moreover, the characters’ stand against the local organized crime syndicate is simply entertaining nonsense. Nonetheless, the fight between the young masters is an epic, fast-paced battle that crosses an entire warehouse and truthfully ends with Lee resolving to modify his system. Ng delivers one of the most brazen portrayals of Lee in recent years, in sharp contrast to Yu’s very Zen Wong.
Special features include: “Becoming the Dragon”; “Building the Story”; “The Stunts”; and “The Fight.” (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
Brigsby Bear (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
James (Kyle Mooney) has grown up with the kids’ show Brigsby Bear and the program has grown with him as well. But to say James’ intensely protective parents have kept their son a bit sheltered is an understatement. One dramatic night, James’ insular world is upended. Upon learning the series has been cancelled, he adopts the old adage that the show must go on. By becoming Brigsby Bear’s new creator, James finally builds meaningful connections his life has lacked.
This is an unexpected story that is both odd and charming. Due to his sheltered upbringing, James has never had the opportunity to socialize or interact with the world. Being plucked from this protective bubble isn’t as jarring for him as one might expect, but it’s almost more difficult for those around him since he’s so unaccustomed to people. He’s polite and curious, but entirely obsessed with Brigsby Bear since it was his only connection to the outside world for so long. His new family and friends have mixed reactions to James’ fixation, but a detective played by Greg Kinnear just wants to help him adjust the best he can. Mooney ensures James is quite likeable in spite of being an involuntary oddball, while those around him are played by great supporting actors that choose to be understanding rather than unkind.
Special features include: commentary by co-writer/actor Kyle Mooney & director Dave McCary; deleted and extended scenes; “Brigsby Bear: The Lost Episode! Volume 23 Episode 14: The Festival of Kindness”; “Twin Speak: Kyle & Dave”; “The Wisdom of Brigsby Bear”; cast Q&A; and gag reel. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Dark Tower (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
The last gunslinger, Roland (Idris Elba), has been locked in an eternal battle with the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the epic battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.
Rather than an adaptation, this film has been positioned as a sequel of sorts to the original written series. Since it’s impossible to faithfully transfer the books to a coherent movie, filmmakers chose to piece together elements from all the books to create a standalone picture that would effectively introduce audiences to these iconic characters. It’s not an approach that’s going to satisfy diehard fans of the source material, but to the uninitiated it’s a fairly entertaining action movie. Luckily, Elba and McConaughey flawlessly embody their respective roles. The former is quietly weary but strong-willed, while the latter is charismatic yet diabolical. They don’t share a lot of screen time, but their inevitable showdown is a fitting demonstration of how they stand opposite as physical embodiments of good and evil. In addition, there are some obvious nods to the original material, including references to the “Tet Corporation”, the number 19, the rose and the Sombra Group.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Last Time Around”; “The World has Moved On…”; “Stephen King: Inspirations”; “A Look Through the Keyhole”; “The Man in Black”; “The Gunslinger in Action”; and blooper reel. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Emoji Movie (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
This adventure is in the secret world inside your favourite smartphone to Textopolis, a bustling city where all your favourite emojis live. In this world, each emoji has only one facial expression — except for Gene (T.J. Miller), who is bursting with multiple expressions. Determined to become “normal,” Gene enlists the help of his handy best friends, Hi-5 (James Corden) and the notorious code breaker emoji Jailbreak (Anna Faris). Together, these unlikely heroes embark on an epic “app-venture” through the apps on the phone to find the code that will fix Gene.
In the most general terms, this is the story of someone who discovers they’re different and goes to great lengths to be like everyone else only to learn that diversity can be a good thing. Since the emojis have a full-range of emotions beyond their designated expression, the narrative is comparable to the many similar ones that came before it — their faces just don’t change, which in some situations adds an extra layer of humour to the scene. Jailbreak is slightly more interesting as she is rebelling against her prescribed place in Textopolis, more interested in the code that puts stuff on the screen then being on it herself. However the voices are so recognizable, it’s hard to separate the human from the cartoon character, which can be distracting at times.
Special features include: “Express Yourself”; “Girls can Code”; “Jailbreak Decoded”; “How to Draw Gene and Poop”; “Gimme a Hand” game; “Sweet App-etite”; “Good Vibrations” dance-along and lyric video; and Hotel Transylvania short, “Puppy.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Good Time (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) embarks on a twisted one-night odyssey through the city’s underworld in a desperate — and dangerous — attempt to get his brother Nick (Benny Safdie) out of jail.
Connie is a grade-A screw-up and even though he loves his brother, he doesn’t put what’s best for him first. Nick is mentally challenged and Connie takes advantage of that while convincing himself Nick has a choice. Of course when the plan goes sideways, Connie feel guilty about what he’s done and starts down a winding path of trying to make things right… in his eyes anyway. Jennifer Jason Leigh is always a scene-stealer, portraying Connie’s upper-class girlfriend who is also in many ways trapped under her mother’s roof. This is yet another departure for Pattinson who goes on this crazy journey of begging, kidnapping, jail-breaking and assault. Connie is not a likeable character, but watching him try to help his brother is akin to not being able to peel your eyes away from a car wreck.
Special features include: commentary by directors Josh and Benny Safdie, producer Sebastian Bear-McClard, and actors Taliah Lennice Webster and Buddy Duress; “The Pure and the Damned: Good Time”; and music video. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
The Hitman’s Bodyguard (Blu-ray)
VVS Films
The world's top protection agent, Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), has a new client: Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), a hit man who came in from the cold. They've been on the opposite ends of a bullet for years and now they're stuck together with 24 hours to get to The Hague.
Both of these actors are comfortable in rated-R territory, having portrayed characters beloved for their profanity and violence. Now they’re together to wreak havoc and use the word “motherf@#%&r” so much it loses all meaning. They are equally proficient killers, though Bryce is hired to protect scumbags and Kincaid makes his living taking them out — these endeavours unsurprisingly obscure the line between good guys and bad since they both believe their pursuits are righteous. Yet it’s this duality that makes their interactions so entertaining and occasionally just a little maudlin. As with any action movie, there are a lot of bodies, explosions, and chases involving gunfire and bullet-riddled cars. But each is bolstered by the witty and comedic rapport between the two stars. Reynolds and Jackson’s screen chemistry is remarkable, boasting flawless comedic timing and an impressive ability to play off of one another.
Special features include: commentary by director Patrick Hughes; deleted and extended scenes; alternate scenes; “The Hitman’s Bodyguard: A Love Story”; “Hitman vs. Bodyguard”; “Dangerous Women”; “Big Action in a Big World”; and outtakes. (VVS Films)
House of Cards: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
In the midst of the presidential election, tensions mount in the White House as Frank (Kevin Spacey) and Claire (Robin Wright) continue to navigate their political careers and redefine their relationships — particularly with each other.
Frank has done some despicable and devious things to become president, and this season is no different. However, he may have finally gone too far in trying to manipulate every situation in his favour. Doug is asked to give up his freedom to further Frank’s career, while Claire makes a significant sacrifice to ensure the Underwoods stay at the top. In the meantime, there are a number of suspicious parties looking into their various transgressions, putting them under more scrutiny. As this show becomes increasingly over-the-top, it’s difficult to stay with the characters through their irrational search for power. Based on the conclusion of this season and recent accusations against Spacey, writing him out of the next chapter would not be impossible so audiences shouldn’t be surprised to see Claire take the lead next season.
There are no special features. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Preacher: Season Two (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
West Texas preacher Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), his badass ex-girlfriend Tulip (.) and Irish vampire Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) embark on a road trip to find God and are thrust into a twisted battle spanning Heaven, Hell and everywhere in between.
There’s a pretty sharp divide between the first half of the season and the last, even though actions from the former unquestionably influence and return in the latter. Jesse is obsessed with finding God, which leaves his friends — for better or worse — without his company more often than not. The first episode finds them in the crosshairs of an undying gunslinger sent to stop the use of Genesis, occupying a lot of the trio’s time as they try to find and/or evade the cold-blooded killer. In spite of being one continuous narrative, it doesn’t always feel like it as some episodes seem to have jumped ahead a bit. Still, there is a lot going on this season with more origin stories revealed and fascinating new characters like you’ve never seen introduced.
Special features include: “Raising the Stakes: Action on Set”; and gag reel. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (4K UHD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
In the 28th century, Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are a team of special operatives charged with maintaining order throughout the human territories. Under assignment from the Minister of Defense, the two embark on a mission to the astonishing city of Alpha — an ever-expanding metropolis where species from all over the universe have converged over centuries to share knowledge, intelligence and cultures with each other. There is a mystery at the center of Alpha, a dark force which threatens the peaceful existence of the City of a Thousand Planets, and Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.
This film is reminiscent of the sci-fi odysseys of the ‘80s, which were somewhat silly but filled with interesting digressions and fascinating aliens. It particularly takes some time to get past the surprisingly superficial dialogue between the operatives at the start of the film, but it gradually improves (or just grows on you). Using the many digital effects at his disposal, director Luc Besson doesn’t hold back when bringing this comic book series to the screen — which is even more evident in the vibrant UHD version of the picture that highlights the stunningly vibrant imagery. The film has a similar tone to Besson’s 1997 The Fifth Element, but on a much larger scale. Unexpectedly, Rihanna stars in one of the film’s most mind-blowing sequences in a seedy red light district, working for an equally startling Ethan Hawke in pimp garb.
Special features include: “Citizens of Imagination: Creating the Universe of Valerian” multi-part documentary; enhancement pods; and photo gallery. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
The Villainess (Blu-ray & DVD)
Well Go USA
Honed from childhood into a merciless killing machine by a criminal organization, assassin Sook-hee (Ok-bin Kim) is recruited as a sleeper agent with the promise of freedom after ten years of service — and she jumps at the chance for a normal life. But soon enough, secrets from her past destroy everything she’s worked for, and now nobody can stand in her way as she embarks on a roaring rampage of revenge.
This is a gripping story with many twists and betrayals as it recounts Sook-hee’s past while her present predicament unfolds. Revenge has always been a part of her life since vowing to kill those responsible for the murder of her father. Taken in by the wrong crowd, they teach her all the skills she needs to fulfill her mission, which is what makes her so attractive to the secret agency… at least on the inside, since they also provide extensive plastic surgery that further separates Sook-hee’s past and present. The action scenes are fast and harsh with the entire opening sequence being shot from her point of view as she shoots and slashes through her enemies in an impressive single take.
Special features include: making-of featurette; and trailers. (Well Go USA)
Westworld: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Days of fantasy play out in a vast, remote Wild West park where a guest pays top dollar to become the person they’ve always dreamed of during their adventures with android hosts. But behind the scenes, something’s not right.
This series presents two distinct areas of interest: one is a disturbing look at the types of people who enjoy this type of getaway (i.e. who it’s catered to) and the other is the perspective of the human-like robots. It’s incredibly alarming — and even more troublingly, unsurprising — the number of people who go to the park just to hurt others without consequence. There’s no obvious indication the robots are synthetic as they’re often indistinguishable from the guests, making the urge to rape and violently murder them very unsettling. Conversely, the robots are so lifelike that some of them are gaining consciousness and are justifiably horrified by the repeated assaults. There are many other twists leading to the season finale, which points to an equally interesting second season.
Special features include: “Realizing the Dream: First Week on the Set of Westworld”; “Imagining the Main Title”; “The Key to the Chords”; “Welcome to Westworld”; “Crafting the Narrative”; “An Invitation to the Set”; “About the Series”; “Reality of A.I.: Westworld”; “The Big Moment”; and gag reel. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)