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Review: The mission drives this week’s releases Special

Posted Apr 12, 2020 by Sarah Gopaul
This week’s releases include a family-friendly espionage picture; a political drama; a change of pace for a former superhero; an autistic murder suspect; a career performance; and a bird of a tale.
A scene from  Dolittle
A scene from 'Dolittle'
Universal Studios
Dolittle (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Untitled
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
After losing his wife, Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.), the man who could talk to animals, hermits himself away behind the high wall of his manor. But he’s forced to set sail on an epic adventure when the queen falls gravely ill. Helping Dolittle in search of a rare cure are his rambunctious animal friends — including Chee-Chee (Rami Malek), an anxious, self-conscious gorilla; Dab-Dab (Octavia Spencer), an enthusiastic but bird-brained duck; the bickering duo of cynical, neurotic ostrich Plimpton (Kumail Nanjiani) and chilly-but-chill polar bear Yoshi (John Cena); as well as a headstrong parrot named Polynesia (Emma Thompson).
Where Eddie Murphy's Dr. Dolittle centred on the hilarious mishaps one incurs when every animal in the vicinity discovers you can understand them, this movie is an adventure that rests on the notion that Dolittle can speak to animals — in their native tongues. Interestingly, when Dolittle and the animals appear to be speaking to each other in English, it’s essentially a dub as they are actually speaking to each other in dog, gorilla or whatever language is native to the specific species so that no one around them knows what either creature is saying. The advancements in CGI have made these types of pictures more common as it affords greater flexibility while maintaining a sense of realism. The artificially-generated creatures look almost real, but are much better at taking direction and acting for the scene. This also allows the narrative to be more exciting and for all the characters to interact/react more.
Special features include: “Talk to the Animals”; “Robert Downey Jr. & Harry: Mentor and Mentee”; “Becoming the Good Doctor”; “Antonio Banderas: Pirate King”; “The Wicked Dr. Müdfly”; and “A Most Unusual House.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Kansas City (Blu-ray)
Untitled
Arrow Academy
Blondie O'Hara (Jennifer Jason Leigh) resorts to desperate measures when her low-level hood husband Johnny (Dermot Mulroney) gets caught trying to steal from Seldom Seen (Harry Belafonte), a local crime boss operating out of jazz haunt The Hey-Hey Club. Out on a limb, Blondie kidnaps laudanum-addled socialite Carolyn (Miranda Richardson), hoping her influential politician husband can pull the right strings and get Johnny out of Seldom Seen's clutches.
Director Robert Altman returns to the city of his birth for this film, producing a jazz-fuelled, Depression-era gangster movie. Though the film begins with a kidnapping, the picture’s focus is split between Blondie’s misguided attempt to save her husband, her brother’s illegal election fixing and the hopping jazz scene at Seldom’s club. Altman even recruited some of the best contemporary jazz players to perform at the club and recreate a historical battle of the musicians. Blondie is clearly playing a part, imitating her screen idol Jean Harlow and talking with an unnatural swagger. The film has an unexpected ending, though it all ends rather appropriately. The bonus features provide some interesting insights into the film and its place in Altman’s career.
Special features include: commentary by director Robert Altman; newly filmed appreciation by critic Geoff Andrew; “Gare, Trains et Deraillement”; “Robert Altman Goes to the Heart of America and Kansas City: The Music”; electronic press kit interviews with Altman, Leigh, Richardson, Belafonte and musician Joshua Redman, plus behind-the-scenes footage; image gallery; TV spots; theatrical trailers; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio. (Arrow Academy)
Madam Secretary: The Complete Series (DVD)
Untitled
Paramount Home Entertainment
The complete six-year term. Defusing a terrorist threat. Preparing to host a foreign diplomat. Sending her kid off to college. Dr. Elizabeth McCord (Téa Leoni) has got life handled in all arenas. While she's busy with the daily management of the nation, McCord's husband, CIA Agent Henry (Tim Daly), helps her keep the peace on the home front. Over time, McCord's commitment to country only deepens as she decides to run for president. In the full six seasons of Madam Secretary, there is no crisis too big and no issue too small.
This Washington-set program has more in common with The West Wing than House of Cards, though there’s still a fair amount of deception and manipulation. Elizabeth makes very difficult decisions by being informed and pragmatic, though she also weighs the emotional costs of her actions even if they cannot influence the final outcome. Dealing with hostage negotiations with terrorists, leaks of classified information and maintaining delicate international relations are just some of the issues she must manage in her roles from Secretary of State to United States President. The narratives also incorporate versions of current events, including ISIS threats. Each season begins with a major event that affects several subsequent episodes before it settles into more of an episodic formula. The other half of this show focuses on their personal lives, which often hold equal weight to the unfolding political stories.
Special features include: commentary on select episodes; deleted and extended scenes; making-of season one featurette; “Madam Secretary at the Politico Playbook Luncheon”; “The Affair — Season 1, Episode 1”; “Times Talks”; “Season Two Guest Stars”; “Politics Unveiled: A Look at the Second Year”; “A Tour of the Oval Office”; “A Day in the Life: An Inside Look at Madam Secretary Season 3”; “The Good Fight Episode 101 ‘Inauguration’”; and photo gallery. (Paramount Home Entertainment)
The Night Clerk (DVD)
Untitled
Paramount Home Entertainment
Hotel night clerk Bart Bromley (Tye Sheridan) is a highly intelligent young man on the autism spectrum. When a woman is murdered during his shift, Bart becomes the prime suspect. As the police investigation closes in, Bart makes a personal connection with a beautiful guest named Andrea (Ana De Armas), but soon realizes he must stop the real murderer before she becomes the next victim.
There’s been an increase in narratives in which the protagonist is autistic, leading to some manner of misunderstanding due to their condition. In this instance, Bart does things he knows is wrong and is aware enough to conceal his misdeeds, but continues to do so because he believes he’s improving himself. His mother (Helen Hunt) is incredibly protective, yet tries to give him as much independence as possible, which includes him working the night shift at a hotel. However, when the police come to her door, she refuses to let Bart be implicated in the murder investigation even though he’s at the centre of it. Unfortunately, the story stretches reality to suit its needs, pushing viewers out of the picture.
There are no special features. (Paramount Home Entertainment)
The Passion of Darkly Noon (Blu-ray)
Untitled
Arrow Video
Darkly Noon (Brendan Fraser) is the sole survivor of a military-style attack on an isolated religious community. Stumbling through a forest in a daze, he is rescued by the free-spirited and enigmatic Callie (Ashley Judd). Darkly finds himself feeling strange new desires for Callie as she nurses him back to health... only to watch her jump into the arms of her returning mute lover Clay (Viggo Mortensen). Lost in the woods with only his fundamentalist upbringing to make sense of his unrequited passions, Darkly soon descends into an explosive and lethal rage.
From the start of the picture when Darkly is found on the brink of death in the woods, the film adopts an unusual tone. When he recovers, he reveals a tragic tale of religious persecution. But his strict upbringing has distinctly shaped his view of the world, making it difficult for him to reconcile his attraction to Callie or to accept her non-marital relations with Clay. Callie is a free spirit that does what she wants when she feels like it, which creates anxiety for Darkly as it’s in opposition to everything in which he was raised to believe. However, when he finds someone who supports his world view, it becomes impossible for Darkly to remain a part of his new, makeshift family. This is one of Fraser’s most accomplished performances, while the arresting score enhances the viewer’s experience.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Philip Ridley; “Sharp Cuts”; “Forest Songs”; “Dreaming Darkly”; isolated score track; previously unreleased demos of the music score; image gallery; theatrical trailer; and reversible sleeve featuring new and original artwork (Arrow Video)
Spies in Disguise (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Untitled
Fox Home Entertainment
Super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) are almost exact opposites. Lance is smooth, suave and debonair. Walter is none of the above. But this unlikely duo must team up for the ultimate mission to save the world when a “biodynamic concealment” experiment transforms Lance into a brave, fierce, majestic... pigeon!
This is the family-friendly comedic version of a James Bond picture in which the main character is turned into an ineffective bird. Other than Lance being displeased by his new form, there is a lot of fun to be had as he still tries to carry out his mission solo. However, a group of misfit birds quickly adopt him into their flock, creating an unshakeable friendship whether he likes it or not. It takes some time for Lance to find the advantages of his feathery appearance, but being able to soar, command a flight of birds and blend into major city settings all comes in handy. Walter also proves to be an asset as his nonaggressive gadgets get them out of more than one sticky situation in a typically humorous manner.
Special features include: “Super Secret Spy Mode”; “Infiltrating Blue Sky Studios”; “The Top Secret Guide to Gadgets”; “Making the Soundtrack”; “Lunch Break”; “Then There Were Two” music video; “Freak of Nature” music video; and gallery. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Swift (Blu-ray & DVD)
Untitled
Shout Kids
Meet Manou (Josh Keaton), a sweet bird who grows up believing he is a seagull like his parents. He strives to swim, fish and fly like them, but feels that he is not very gifted. To his great shock, Manou discovers that he was adopted and is actually the offspring of the much-hated swifts. After a tragedy, Manou has to navigate the differences between swifts and seagulls, and ultimately try to find his own identity — and save his friends and family along the way.
This French animated movie has a couple of messages baked into it. Manou is adopted into a loving family who raise him alongside their own son. However, the rest of the seagull flock disapproves and his father (Willem Dafoe) fears for his safety. One of the ways he proves himself, however, is by being himself and doing things his way rather than the seagull way. Growing to realize he doesn’t fit in, Manou finds he fits in more easily with other swifts, but doesn’t want them to replace the family he loves. His ability to act as a bridge between both species enables them to overcome their rivalry and work together for the greater good, resulting in a happy, unified ending.
Special features include: making-of featurette; an interview with actor Willem Dafoe; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Kids)