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Review: Courage is needed in this week’s releases (Includes first-hand account)

Battle of Jangsari (Blu-ray & DVD)

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Well Go USA

At a critical point in the Korean War, a small, inexperienced battalion of student soldiers are tasked with liberating the strategic locations of Incheon. With little ammunition, low food supplies and second-hand weapons, the soldiers head for the frontlines of Jangsari beach. Based on the true story of the forgotten heroes of the Korean War, can the student soldiers successfully carry out their mission and turn the tide of the war?

The film begins during a typhoon, already diminishing the inexperienced battalion’s odds of success as well as reducing the possibility of air support. From there, the young men demonstrate bravery in the face of overwhelming odds as they repeatedly fend off the enemy. The facts surrounding their deployment are revealed throughout the narrative, as a female U.S. war correspondent follows their mission and all the missteps that endanger their lives. The narrative is based on true events, highlighting the conditions in which they fought as well as the familiarity of their enemies as countrymen fight countrymen. The epilogue shows some of the real people that inspired the story, which is as captivating as other war dramas.

Special features include: making-of featurette. (Well Go USA)

Body Parts (Blu-ray)

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Scream Factory

Bill Chrushank (Jeff Fahey) is a criminal psychologist who loses his arm and nearly his life in a grisly car accident. A daring medical operation follows, in which a donor’s arm is successfully grafted onto Bill’s body. But after the operation, the arm starts to take on a violent life of its own, striking out against Bill’s wife and children. Consumed by fears about his dangerous behaviour, Bill is driven to learn the donor’s identity — and makes a horrifying discovery that delivers him into a world of unimaginable terror.

In the classic tale of science run amok, the use of involuntary subjects backfires as the donor’s murderous spirit endures in his limbs. Bill has the advantage of his connections that allow him to uncover the identity of his arm’s original owner and then the cunning to find out who received the other transplants. The doctor is, of course, very protective of her work and a little unstable in order to carry out her unethical actions. The rogue limbs’ activities are more subtle than other possessed appendages, such as Ash’s hand, acting on its own with fluid movements that don’t seem uncharacteristic of the rest of the body. There’s nothing special about this narrative, though it is an entertaining horror movie about a man obsessed by his possession.

Special features include: commentary by director Eric Red; deleted gore footage with optional director commentary; “I Dare You to Read the Script”; “Something Unstoppable”; “Molded for Cinema”; “That One Hurt”; still gallery; TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)

Harriet (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)

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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The film tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman’s (Cynthia Erivo) escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes. Haunted by memories of those she left behind, Harriet ventures back into dangerous territory on a mission to lead others to freedom. With allies like abolitionist William Still (Leslie Odom Jr.) and the entrepreneurial Marie Buchanon (Janelle Monáe), Harriet risks capture and death to guide hundreds to safety as one of the most prominent conductors of the Underground Railroad.

Most people know the name Harriet Tubman and the gist of her historical significance, but far fewer know the details of her life. Opting to exclude the more severe aspects of slavery and slave catchers, the film is almost a superhero depiction of an ordinary woman who accomplished extraordinary feats. Guided by God, Harriet repeatedly crossed hundreds of miles first to and from the northern states that abolished slavery, and then Canada when no state was safe anymore. She’s portrayed as a force of nature that no one could stop, on a mission she was sure would not fail. The performances from everyone involved are excellent, but the rose-coloured glasses do make the narrative seem a bit insincere. In addition, it would have been interesting to learn more about Harriet’s involvement in the Civil War, which is an even lesser known fact of her life.

Special features include: commentary by co-writer/director Kasi Lemmons; deleted scenes; “Her Story”; and “Becoming Harriet.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (Blu-ray)

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Scream Factory

Jessica (Zohra Lampert) has been released from an institution after suffering a nervous breakdown and seeks the tranquility of a secluded home in Connecticut to help make her recovery complete. But instead of a restful recuperation with her husband (Barton Heyman) and close friend (Kevin O’Connor) in the New England countryside, Jessica soon finds herself falling into a swirling vortex of madness and the supernatural. Even more unsettling is that the entire region seems to be under the influence of a mysterious woman (Mariclare Costello) who has been living in the supposedly empty house. Jessica’s fear and dread only intensify when she discovers that the “undead” girl tragically drowned long ago, on her wedding day. Is she back to take vengeance?

In the same vein as Roman Polanski‘s Repulsion, this movie toys with a woman’s sanity. Jessica seems kind, caring, welcoming and healthy at the start of the picture. But because of her mental health issues, her husband and friend are less inclined to believe her when she describes the strange things she’s experiencing… after already hiding them for a few days in fear of their reactions. The squatter is certainly not as wholesome as she appears, playing the role of Poison Ivy in a happy household, while the validity of the ghost in the wedding dress is a constant question. After a while, what’s happening to Jessica just seems cruel but aligned with similar 70’s narratives in which women’s sanity was under attack.

Special features include: commentary by director John Hancock and producer Bill Badalato; “Art Saved My Life”; “Scare Tactics: Reflections on a Seventies Horror Classic”; “She Walks These Hills”; still gallery; TV and radio spots; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)

Motherless Brooklyn (Blu-ray & Digital copy)

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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton), a lonely private detective living with Tourette Syndrome, ventures to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend, Frank Minna (Bruce Willis). Armed only with a few clues and the engine of his obsessive mind, Lionel unravels closely guarded secrets that hold the fate of New York in the balance. In a mystery that carries him from gin-soaked jazz clubs in Harlem to the hard-edged slums of Brooklyn and, finally, into the gilded halls of New York’s power brokers, Lionel contends with thugs, corruption and the most dangerous man in the city to honour his friend and save the woman who might be his own salvation.

This throwback to film noir detective movies of the ‘50s is spot on, while also adding an unconventional twist to the protagonist’s drive to solve the case. The film opens with Lionel pulling at a thread on his sweater because his brain won’t let him stop — the same is true for the loose threads in the case that killed Frank. However, his ability to remember everything paired with a need to resolve mysteries makes Lionel the best man to solve the case that no one else seems to care about. Even though it’s not black-and-white, there’s a washed-out grittiness to the picture that gives it a gumshoe feel, as well as the terrific locations and classic cars lining the streets. Even though a lot of people believe Lionel’s affliction makes him a fool, he’s actually the best detective in his agency. Norton wears all his hats very well, delivering a great film and an outstanding, genuine performance that required a refined type of improv.

Special features include: commentary by writer/director Edward Norton; deleted scenes; and making-of featurette. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

My Name Is Myeisha (Blu-ray)

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Shout Factory

The film chronicles the life of a young black woman in California’s Inland Empire. Set in 1998, Myeisha Jackson (Rhaechyl Walker) vividly recounts the events of her life leading to a fateful encounter with local police.

The film is an adaptation of the internationally acclaimed, NAACP-award-winning stage play, “Dreamscape,” by Rickerby Hinds. At a time when stories that must be told are competing with a market oversaturated with content, storytellers are finding unique ways to convey their narratives. Where one film used a Groundhog Day technique to depict the many ways a black youth can be killed by police, this movie is a spoken-word, hip-hop, musical fantasy. While the protagonists in these narratives are primarily male, this one is based on a true story and features the rarer perspective of a young woman. Depicting moments before and after the shooting, the movie is a moving depiction the significant moments of a life snuffed out too soon.

Special features include: commentary by director Gus Krieger; cast interviews; and photo gallery. (Shout Factory)

Piranhas (DVD)

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Music Box Films Home Entertainment

Based on the novel by Roberto Saviano, the film follows fifteen year-old Nicola (Francesco Di Napoli) who lives with his mother and younger brother in the Sanità neighborhood of Naples — a place that has been controlled by the Camorra mafia for centuries. Dreaming of a life lush with designer clothing and elite nightclub bottle service, Nicola and his group of friends begin selling drugs, an entryway into the violent, power-hungry world of crime that begins to threaten their innocence, relationships, and safety of their families.

The film depicts a real-life phenomenon in which teenage gangs are taking over organized crime as the reigning families are killed or imprisoned. It’s unclear whether the boys are on summer vacation or just don’t go to school, but they have nothing better to do with their time than devise a way to climb the criminal ladder. Starting small, they find work selling drugs for the family that governs their neighbourhood, which gets them nice clothes and into the posh club. Then they set their sights higher, accepting the violence, death and betrayal that comes with running a territory. It’s an unusual coming-of-age story that demonstrates how easily young people with few prospects can be seduced by money and power.

Special features include: making-of featurette; interview with writer Roberto Saviano; and press conference with the cast and crew from Berlinale. (Music Box Films)

Terminator: Dark Fate (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)

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Paramount Home Entertainment

Decades after Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) prevented Judgment Day, a lethal new Terminator (Gabriel Luna) is sent to eliminate the future leader of the resistance. In a fight to save mankind, battle-hardened Sarah teams up with an unexpected ally (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and an enhanced super soldier (Mackenzie Davis) to stop the deadliest Terminator yet.

Tim Miller has only directed a couple of other films, but in a few short years he’s been entrusted with some high profile, big budget movies with a lot of expectations attached to them… and each time, he’s delivered. Bringing back Hamilton was definitely a good place to start, but there’s so many aspects of the movie that are familiar and others that are slightly altered to account for the time that’s lapsed. The battle sequences are even more exciting with the REV-9’s new technology and Grace’s heightened reflexes. Even when it’s like she’s fighting two superior enemies, she’s still incredible. In spite of fulfilling her mission decades earlier, Sarah is still combat-ready and tougher than ever. Dani is lucky to have both women watching her back. The narrative takes some liberties with the original story in order to mold it around the new story, but they fit within the overall context and don’t require too much of a leap to be acceptable.

Special features include: deleted and extended scenes; “A Legend Reforged”; “World Builders”; “Dam Busters: The Final Showdown”; and “VFX Breakdown: The Dragonfly.” (Paramount Home Entertainment)

Very Bad Things (Blu-ray)

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Shout Factory

Kyle Fisher (Jon Favreau) has one last night to celebrate life as a single man before marrying Laura (Cameron Diaz), so he sets out to Vegas with four of his best buddies (Leland Orser, Jeremy Piven, Christian Slater and Daniel Stern). But their swanky, drug-and-alcohol-fueled bachelor party goes bust when their “stripper” cashes in her chips during a deranged sexual escapade. And hers is just the first of the bodies to pile up. The five friends decide to bury the evidence… but fate has a way of not letting the truth stay buried for long.

Long before The Hangover, director Peter Berg took audiences to a somewhat disturbing, darkly humorous bachelor party. “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” but these guys have a lot of trouble getting over the worst night of their lives. An incredible cast takes this film to its limits as an accident leads to the discovery that one of their friends may be a serial killer and Laura may still be the scariest amongst them. Audiences will find themselves cringing and laughing simultaneously as this group of friends turn from best buds to bumbling liabilities. No actor stands out over another as they each turn in tremendous performances that fit their characters’ personalities and keeps audiences engaged in this deranged comedy.

Special features include: commentary with film critics Witney Seibold and William Bibbiani, hosts of “The Podcast Critically Acclaimed”; interview with actor Jeremy Piven; interview with actor Daniel Stern; still gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)

Zombieland: Double Tap (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)

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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Set one decade after the events of the first film, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), and Wichita (Emma Stone) are working together as a well-oiled, zombie-killing machine with a new home in the now-vacant White House. These four slayers must face off against the many new kinds of zombies that have evolved since the first movie, as well as some new human survivors. But most of all, they have to face the growing pains of their own snarky, makeshift family.

The characters have not changed very much so their choices are predictable, but still amusing. They’ve become a great team over the years, immediately executing a defense plan when under attack and developing their own code. Their closeness is only further exemplified when a new tagalong (Zoey Deutch) is repeatedly confused by their short-form… though at least part of that can be attributed to her low I.Q. There are several new character encounters throughout the picture, all of whom are played by recognizable actors, including Deutch, Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch. Their contributions to the narrative are hilarious and their presence has a significant impact on the group’s dynamics. Of course, they’re no Bill Murray, but no one is — though be sure his legacy has not been forgotten in the picture. Meanwhile, the returning cast has no problem stepping back into their sensible shoes and getting a little more physical with the undead.

Special features include: commentary by director Ruben Fleischer; alternate and extended scenes; “The Doppelgangers”; “The Rides of Zombieland”; “Rules of Making a Zombie Film”; “Making Babylon”; “New Blood”; “Single Take Doppelganger Fight”; “Zombieland Ad Council”; and extended bloopers and outtakes. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

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Written By

Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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