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Review: Death is not the end of the story in this week’s releases (Includes first-hand account)

Dead Dicks (Blu-ray)


Artsploitation Films

When Becca (Jillian Harris), a young nursing student, receives a series of panicked messages from her older brother Richie (Heston Horwin), she rushes over to check on him. Following a seemingly successful suicide attempt, Richie, who suffers from mental illness, is not only very much alive but also in the presence of what appears to be his own dead body. When Becca gets to his apartment, they find several more dead versions of Richie and together, try to figure out how and why he keeps being reborn each time he takes his own life.

This Canadian feature mixes sci-fi and horror while also taking a page out of fellow Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg’s book. As Becca is used to cleaning up Richie’s misses, after getting over the initial shock she finds the only solution to their predicament, which is both unthinkable but entirely logical. Richie, in the meantime, is taking the whole thing in stride, which only makes the situation more frustrating, while the agitated, nosey neighbour adds yet another complication. The vaginal wall opening isn’t at all surprising, though the special effects used in creating the obscene birth are rather convincing. Unfortunately, the ambiguous ending undoes all the goodwill built up to that point.

Special features include: commentary by directors Chris Bavota and Lee Paula Springer; video diaries with directors; and FX featurette. (Artsploitation Films)

Deadwater Fell (DVD)



Dr. Tom Kendrick (David Tennant) is a trusted, admired and much-liked member of the community, doting father of three, and seemingly loving husband to Kate (Anna Madeley); their lives seem nothing short of perfect. But in one night, the illusions of happiness and contentment are shattered as the community rushes to Kate and Tom’s burning home. Amid the confusion, Kate and her children are found dead, and Tom, found unconscious in his bed, is rushed to the hospital. As more suspicious details of that night emerge, Jess (Cush Jumbo) — who was Kate’s best friend and closest confidante — becomes desperate to understand what could have caused such a tragedy, and what secrets lie at the root of this terrible act.

This four-part miniseries is less of a whodunnit and more of an exploration of the aftermath of such a horrific crime. When Tom survives, everyone is champing at the bit to ask him what happened in an attempt to understand how or why someone would murder an entire family. As the series continues, audiences are shown flashbacks of what life was like for everyone before the fire, though these scenes cause the episodes to feel somewhat choppy. Although Tom’s life is clearly shattered, much of the focus is on Jess and her family who are profoundly affected by the incident. Her husband is suffering from PTSD and their son is having difficulty coping with the loss of his playmates. Communication — or the lack thereof — becomes increasingly important and leads to the series’ most important revelations.

Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette. (Acorn)

House of Hummingbird (Blu-ray)


Well Go USA

Fourteen-year-old Eun-hee (Ji-hu Park) moves through life like a hummingbird searching for a taste of sweetness wherever she may find it. Ignored by her parents and abused by her brother, she finds her escape by roaming the neighborhood with her best friend, going on adventures, exploring young love and experiencing everything that comes with growing up in a country on the brink of enormous change.

The story takes place in Seoul around the 1994 Seongsu Bridge collapse, which has a lasting impact on Eun-hee and her loved ones. The teen comes from a complicated family in which she and her siblings are under incredible pressure to succeed academically, which causes each of them to act out differently. Her older brother is doing everything right at school, but becomes explosively violent at home. Her older sister doesn’t even try, frequently putting her on the receiving end of their parents’ rage. In the meantime, Eun-hee seeks more satisfying relationships from her peers. She commiserates with her best friend, and looks for love from both sexes. However, she finds the best companion in her Chinese school teacher, as she serves as both a sympathetic ear and an understanding adult. This is a coming-of-age movie about life’s highs and lows in which even the blockbuster event is handled somewhat mundanely.

There are no special features. (Well Go USA)

Ride Your Wave (Blu-ray & DVD)


GKids & Shout Factory

Hinako is a surf-loving college student who just moved to a small seaside town. When a fire breaks out at her apartment building, she is rescued by Minato, a handsome firefighter, and the two soon fall in love. Just as they become inseparable, Minato loses his life in an accident at sea. Hinako is so distraught that she can no longer even look at the ocean. But one day she sings a song that reminds her of their time together and Minato appears in the water. From then on, she can summon him in any watery surface as soon as she sings their song. But can the two really remain together forever?

This is a fantasy romance in which it seems inevitable that the exceedingly happy couple will be tragically separated early on in the picture. Since it’s expected, it’s slightly less upsetting for audiences — but Hinako is understandably devastated. Minato’s watery return turns everything around for the grief-stricken Hinako, while also convincing her friends she’s lost her mind. She finds creative ways to summon and interact with Minato by keeping him around for longer periods in larger containers of water. While Hinako can’t imagine living without him again, he gradually realizes he can’t give her the life she deserves. This classic, ghostly love story is given an added element of whimsy through its lovely animation, while also conveying a tale of hope.

Special features include: interview with producer Eunyoung Choi; animated storyboards; character still gallery; TV spots; trailers; and exclusive 12-page booklet with director’s statement and art. (Gkids & Shout Factory)

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan: Season Two (Blu-ray)


Paramount Home Entertainment

After tracking a potentially suspicious shipment of illegal arms in the Venezuelan jungle, CIA Officer Jack Ryan (John Krasinski) heads down to South America to investigate. There he joins forces with his former boss, James Greer (Wendell Pierce), and CIA Station Chief Mike November (Michael Kelly). As Jack’s investigation threatens to uncover a far-reaching conspiracy, the President of Venezuela launches a counter-attack that hits home for Jack, leading him and his fellow operatives on a global mission spanning the United States, UK, Russia and Venezuela to unravel the President’s nefarious plot and bring stability to a country on the brink of chaos.

Although the general premise of Jack Ryan’s adventures is similar, creators find ways to keep audiences hooked on the narratives. In this case, Jack is less hesitant to get on the ground and investigate the potential illegal activities himself. Of course, what began as a simple, diplomatic mission becomes a complex operation with high-risk rescues and betrayal on both sides of the battle. It’s engaging and stays in the exotic realm of the possible, but not very likely, which keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. Krasinski continues to deliver a satisfying Ryan, who is equally comfortable and convincing putting the pieces together from behind a desk as he is taking point in a risky military operation.

Special features include: deleted scenes. (Paramount 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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