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Review: Everyone breaks the rules in this week’s releases Special

Posted Dec 8, 2017 by Sarah Gopaul
This week’s releases include a prequel to an enduring franchise; a reboot of a previously successful series; a long but satisfying movie; a documentary chronicling a bloody rise to fame; and that latest adventures of popular small yellow men.
A scene from  Despicable Me 3
A scene from 'Despicable Me 3'
Universal Pictures
24: Legacy: Season One (DVD)
Untitled
Fox Home Entertainment
Six months ago in Yemen, an elite squad of U.S. Army Rangers, led by Sergeant Eric Carter (Corey Hawkins), killed terrorist leader Sheik Ibrahim Bin-Khalid. In the aftermath, Bin-Khalid’s followers declared a threat against Carter, his squad and their families, forcing them into federal witness protection. But a recent attempt on Carter’s own life makes it clear to him that his team has been exposed. To thwart further attacks, Carter enlists Rebecca Ingram (Miranda Otto), who directed the raid that killed Bin-Khalid; a brilliant and ambitious intelligence officer who has stepped down from her post as National Director of the Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) to support her husband, Senator John Donovan (Jimmy Smits), in his campaign for President of the United States.
Like its predecessor, each episode unfolds over one hour in real-time. The first season is 12 episodes, i.e. 12 hours in a day spent thwarting multiple terrorist plots. However, in spite of the similar format, this show differs in many ways too. Carter isn’t a member of the CTU, though thanks to Rebecca he does have many of their resources at his disposal. Both characters regularly break protocol in order to do what they think is right or necessary, often putting themselves (and sometimes their teams) at risk. Rebecca’s trusted computer analyst also plays a major part in their covert operations, in the field and behind the desk. Each episode delivers high-intensity action that compels audiences to want to see what happens next, which generally means how they’re going to get out of their current mess or save an endangered friend/loved one. It appears there’s only one character from the original series who returns to have a significant impact on the story.
Special features include: deleted scenes; and “24: The Legacy Lives On.” (Fox Home Entertainment)
American Assassin (4K UHD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment
CIA black-ops recruit Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) is under the instruction of Cold War veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). The pair is then enlisted by CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) to investigate a wave of apparently random attacks on both military and civilian targets. Together, the three discover a pattern in the violence, leading them to a joint mission with a lethal Turkish agent (Shiva Negar) to stop a mysterious operative (Taylor Kitsch) intent on settling a personal and professional vendetta that could have cataclysmic results.
Based on the series of Mitch Rapp books by Vince Flynn, this movie serves as a prequel that demonstrates how Rapp became the skilled operative of later missions. Rapp’s espionage career begins as an independent seeking revenge for the death of a loved one. His untutored dedication and talent makes him a prime candidate for recruitment, though his freewheeling nature makes Hurley hesitate. Kitsch was initially pegged to play Rapp, but the longer it took to get the project off the ground the less-suited he became for the younger lead role. O’Brien and Keaton have good screen chemistry as Hurley pushes Rapp’s buttons in order to make him a better soldier. Their minutely planned missions that inevitably go awry are interesting, but the ending feels a little too over the top.
Special features include: “Target Acquired: Creating an American Assassin”; “Finding Mitch Rapp: Dylan O’Brien”; “Transfer of Power: Hurley and Ghost”; “Weaponized: Training and Stunts”; “In the Field: Locations”; and Alamo Drafthouse Q&A with Dylan O’Brien and Taylor Kitsch. (Lionsgate Hoe Entertainment)
Conor McGregor: Notorious (DVD)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Filmed over the course of four years, the documentary provides an all-access account of Conor McGregor’s journey from modest upbringings to being the current UFC Lightweight Champion and biggest fight sports star in the world at just 29 years old. Featuring exclusive interviews, unprecedented access and fight footage, this is a behind-the-scenes look at a sporting icon and his meteoric rise.
While many more people learned of McGregor through his headline fight against boxer Floyd Mayweather, that event is literally a footnote in this documentary. Instead, the film focuses on the years and matches leading up to that monumental battle. Chronicling McGregor’s training, public appearances, wins and losses, the picture tries to show who the man is behind the bloody brawls. One of the most honest moments involves a flippant confession that it all comes down to the money, which he flaunts with designer suits, a big house and nice cars. Otherwise, it seems like anything that may have been controversial or too truthful was kept out of the movie.
Special features include: “The Fighting Irish.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Despicable Me 3 (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
After he is fired from the Anti-Villain League for failing to take down Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), the latest evil mastermind to threaten humanity, Gru (Steve Carell) finds himself in the midst of a major identity crisis. But when a mysterious stranger shows up to inform Gru that he has a long-lost twin brother — a brother who desperately wishes to follow in his twin’s despicable footsteps — the former super-villain rediscovers just how good it feels to be bad.
There’s a lot happening in this film. It begins with Gru and Balthazar facing-off over the world’s largest diamond as the ‘80s washout uses modified fads of the decade to battle his opponents. Dru, who still has a head of luscious blonde locks, is like his brother in many other ways, which makes their reunion a relatively easy one. The Minions go on a long trek that eventually lands them in jail for one of the movie’s best sequences of badassery and cuteness. And Agnes goes on an adorable quest to find a real unicorn, which is the most heartwarming part of the otherwise expectedly light-hearted movie. Due to the Minions’ dissent, they’re not in the film nearly enough; but they’re still awesome and hilarious when they do appear. The brotherly reconnection is also amusing, since they’re so different yet so much alike. And Dru’s ineptitude is like pairing Gru with the annoying little brother he never had. And the mini-movie unexpectedly focuses on the family dog, Kyle.
Special features include: all-new mini movie, deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “Minion Moments”; “Developing Dru”; “The AVL Files”; “Freedonia Visitors Guide”; “Despicable Me TV”; “Minion Moments”; character profiles; wanted posters; “Doowit” sing-along; and “Yellow Light” music video. (Illumination & Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Free to Rock: How Rock & Roll Brought Down The Wall (DVD)
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MVD Visual
The documentary film is directed by four-time Emmy winning filmmaker Jim Brown and narrated by Kiefer Sutherland. Rock & Roll spread like a virus across Soviet Union despite Communist attempts to outlaw it. Thousands of underground bands and millions of young fans who yearned for Western freedoms helped fuel the nonviolent implosion of the Soviet regime. The film features presidents, diplomats, spies and rock stars from the West and the Soviet Union who reveal how rock & roll music helped bring down The Wall.
As noted in the full-length making-of featurette, this documentary explores the thesis that Western music played a role in breaking down the Berlin Wall. Beginning with that premise, the filmmakers began interviewing a variety of people who all seemed to confirm their theory. Former teens describe the freedom ascribed to listening to — and in some cases even playing — rock music… and the beatings they endured if they were caught. Sutherland guides audiences through the historical aspects of the story, while first-person accounts provide colour and a better understanding of the evolving climate. The film is a fascinating examination of oppression vs. expression, and the Soviet’s incremental loss of power.
Special features include: “Rockin’ the Kremlin: Outtakes & Original Stories behind the Making of Free to Rock.” (MVD Visual)
Happy Hour (DVD)
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Icarus Films
Four 30-something-year-old women in the misty seaside city of Kobe navigate the unsteady currents of their work, domestic and romantic lives, and an unexpected rift that propels each to a new, richer understanding of life and love.
In spite of these women only knowing each other as a group for a few years, they are very tightly bonded so a closely kept secret feels like a betrayal of their friendship — especially when revealed in front of strangers. Each woman is navigating a difficult period in their love life, which includes divorce, dissatisfaction, infidelity and uncertainty. Even though the film follows each character pretty closely, the audience is still occasionally kept on the periphery regarding their actual feelings or intentions, which can be quite complicated. Sitting down for a five-hour-and-17-minute movie is a daunting task and there are sections that seem to go on too long for little reason; but, on the flipside, these women are actually engaging characters dealing with real-life issues that will capture and retain viewers’ attentions.
There are no special features. (Icarus Films)
Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
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Shout Factory
Young Howard Lovecraft (Kiefer O'Reilly) may have defeated the evil King Abdul Alhazred (Jeffrey Combs) in the Frozen Kingdom, but all is not safe, not yet. There are much darker forces at work and, this time, Howard must protect his father's journals without the assistance of his most trusted ally, Spot. Instead, Howard must recruit his own father and seek the aid of the studious Dr. Henry Armitage (Mark Hamill) to use the power of the journals to rescue his best friend and family, and vanquish the mysterious forces once and for all.
This is the second animated feature in the Howard Lovecraft series, which focuses on the famed writer’s childhood adventures that would inspire his later works. However, in spite of the fun format, these movies feel geared towards adults who are already aware of H.P. Lovecraft’s writing and association with the Necronomicon. In this story, in order to protect Spot, a.k.a. Cthulhu, he becomes more familiar with the magical book and discovers the power it’s instilled in him. While the style is already reminiscent of some of Laika’s pictures, there’s a creepy scene involving Howard’s mother that is evocative of a scene from Coraline. In any case, the film is still enjoyable though its target audience may not be as young as they intended.
Special features include: an interview with co-star Jeffrey Combs; and trailer. (Shout Factory)
One Day at a Time: The Complete Series (DVD)
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Shout Factory
Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin), an independent woman who transplants herself and her two daughters — rebellious Julie (Mackenzie Phillips) and smart aleck Barbara (Valerie Bertinelli) — to Indianapolis in search of a new life. Moving into an apartment under the watchful eye and ever-present tool belt of the building’s quirky superintendent Schneider (Pat Harrington), the Romano women muddle through life, love, and laughs as they discover their own potential.
This series is somewhat of a precursor to shows like Gilmore Girls, though it still had a lot of Three’s Company thrown in for good measure. The women are quick-witted and not opposed to taking jabs at each other, but all is generally good-hearted fun. Schneider regularly makes unannounced visits and is constantly hitting on Ann, though he proves that he really does care for the family when his support is required. In an interesting twist, the second season begins with a multi-episode story arc involving a runaway and slightly less humorous circumstances. Over nine seasons, the show continued to evolve and deal with some important issues while showcasing the life of a modern, single woman and mother.
There are no special features. (Shout Factory)
The Osiris Child: Science Fiction Volume One (Blu-ray)
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RLJ Entertainment
When a dangerous outbreak threatens to destroy everyone living on a newly colonized planet, Lt. Kane Sommerville (Daniel MacPherson) goes against orders and leaves his station to rescue his young daughter (Teagan Croft). Desperate to get to her before it’s too late, Kane enlists the help of an escaped prisoner (Kellan Lutz) as they battle their way through the chaos of a planet on the verge of annihilation. With the odds stacked against them, saving his little girl may be humanity’s last chance at survival.
Colonizing a planet is hard work, but it’s made even more difficult when the leaders have ulterior plans for the world’s inhabitants. Using a traditional form of labour, prisoners are indentured to build the required infrastructure. Meanwhile, many of the employees are there because there are fewer questions asked during the hiring process, allowing them to hide from their pasts. In some ways, Lutz’s prisoner is also there by mistake. The couple they meet along the way are a startling pair, but they definitely add some flavour to this otherwise monotonous sci-fi tale. As the title indicates, this is only part of a larger story that will continue in a new location after peaking audience’s interests with an intriguing conclusion.
Special features include: deleted scenes; making-of featurettes; music video; concept art gallery; and photo gallery. (RLJ Entertainment)
Santa Stole Our Dog (DVD)
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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
On a snowy Christmas eve, the Whitehaven’s beloved family dog, Rusty, goes missing. Could Santa (Ed Asner) have taken him?
This is an over-the-top tale that mixes recycled plots with a mishmash of creativity. The parents are separated and the dad has agreed to keep their new dog at his Californian home, but on Christmas day no one can find him. When an orchestrated news report indicates he might be at the North Pole, they go on a family trip to find him under the convenient guise of visiting dad’s family at his childhood home in the Northwest Territories. On the way they encounter Russian border patrol, a compulsive thief, an elf trying to get home and flying reindeer. Goofy Christmas movies are fun, but this one is just too ridiculous — not to mention the inappropriate female elf with too much cleavage.
There are special features. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Silent Night, Deadly Night: Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray)
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Scream Factory
Little Billy Chapman was traumatized by his parents' Christmas Eve murder, then brutalized by sadistic orphanage nuns. But when grown-up Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) is to dress as jolly St. Nick, he goes on a yuletide rampage to “punish the naughty.”
This film falls into the slasher category of childhood trauma. Poor Billy is initially scarred when he witnesses his parents' murder and then repeatedly traumatized by the abusive nun that runs the orphanage. A younger nun tries to help him, but she's no match for the iron fist of Mother Superior. The selection of Santa Claus is an interesting and valid choice for a villain. Reviewing some of the legends surrounding the jolly old man can be disturbing and the costume itself causes suspicion since anyone could be hiding behind the large white beard. The only real problem with the story is Billy doesn't get his revenge in the end, even though it's the one moment for which you can be sure audiences are rooting.
Special features include: original Theatrical and Unrated versions of the film; commentary with actor Robert Brian Wilson and co-executive producer Scott J. Schneid; commentary by Michael Hickey, Perry Boykin, Scott J. Schneid and Michael Spence; audio interview with director Charles E. Sellier, Jr. “Slay Bells Ring: The Story of Silent Night, Deadly Night”; “Oh Deer!,” an interview with Linnea Quigley; “Christmas in July — Silent Night, Deadly Night Locations”; “Santa’s Stocking of Outrage”; poster and still gallery; TV and radio spots; original theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)
South Park: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Join Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny as these four animated tykes take on the supernatural, the extraordinary and the insane. For them, it’s all part of growing up in South Park.
This first season unquestionably made the show a hit, introducing characters whose legacies and stories have endured. The first episode, although apparently rough since it was the pilot, is still one of the most memorable as Cartman is taken by “Visitors” and a satellite is installed in his bottom. The season also includes Satan’s boxing match with Jesus, Big Gay Al, the Scuttlebutt, Starvin’ Marvin, Terrance and Phillip, Mr. Hankey, and the attempt to naturally cross-breed a pig and elephant. Creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker introduce every episode as cowboys on a ranch, at one point justifying their right to kill Kenny in every episode simply because they can.
Special features include: full-length commentary by creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
South Park: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Join Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny as these four animated tykes take on the supernatural, the extraordinary and the insane. For them, it’s all part of growing up in South Park.
This season, creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker continued to demonstrate their dark humour by airing the first episode on April Fool’s Day and choosing not to rejoin the previous season’s cliff-hanger regarding the identity of Cartman’s father (and even when they did eventually answer the question, they didn’t entirely solve the mystery). In other “fun,” the boys take vengeance on their parents by infecting them with herpes, there’s a zombie outbreak, the townsfolk mangle themselves in an annual ritual, and the Sundance Film Festival’s relocation nearly kills Mr. Hankey. Stone and Parker split their intro time between a retirement home at which they appear to be holding the residents hostage, and as the hosts of a TV cooking show centred on bacon, which is then fed to their oinking mascot.
Special features include: Chef’s “Chocolate Salty Balls” music video. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
South Park: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Join Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny as these four animated tykes take on the supernatural, the extraordinary and the insane. For them, it’s all part of growing up in South Park.
This season absolutely proved no topic was too taboo. Taking a shot at environmentalists, the season begins in a rainforest that proves undeserving of their protection as it repeatedly tries to kill them. Then Stan’s and Kyle’s dads ponder the consequences of watching each other masturbate at a party. Starvin’ Marvin returns and the boys try to protect him from a religious organization, while Mr. Hankey’s annual special takes on a musical tone. Another amusing episode takes on the ‘90s popularity of Pokemon and its effects on children. And finally, the season is topped off by a finale in which molestation is addressed in the most inappropriate, absolutely wrong way. This season ended the inclusion of Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s introductions, but new character, “Sexual Harassment Panda,” could be due for a revival.
Special features include: commentary by creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
South Park: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Season four marks the boys’ passage into fourth grade and the launch of their boy band, Fingerbang. For them, it’s all part of growing up in South Park.
This season was not as strong as many of the others, though there are still some standout episodes. Satan struggles to choose between his current lover and his ex-partner, Saddam Hussein, while all the kids in South Park become religious fanatics in an attempt to avoid going to Hell. The “Trapper Keeper” is another memorable episode, while Chef’s crusade against the town’s racist flag once again feels more relevant 17 years later. This season also has a strange fascination with child molestation, first telling the story of Cartman’s dangerous friendship with men who like boys and then emptying the town of adults via false accusations. And Timmy’s first season would not be his last, leading to numerous inappropriate plots for years to come.
Special features include: commentary by creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
South Park: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)
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Paramount Home Media Distribution
Join Stan, Kyle, Cartman and the about-to-be permanently departed Kenny as they take on the supernatural, the extraordinary and the insane. For them, it’s all part of growing up in South Park.
How many times can characters say a curse word in a single animated episode? Matt Stone and Trey Parker answer this question in the season premiere with an on-screen counter. Big Gay Al returns to face more discrimination, while the introduction of Jimmy leads to an unexpected rivalry. “Cartmanland” is a great episode that delivers the greedy little guy his comeuppance, while in another episode he breaks his sense of humour with what he considers the funniest thing in the world. This season also launched stoner Towelie before taking little Kenny’s life for the last time.
Special features include: commentary by creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)