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Review: Friends stick together in this week’s releases (Includes first-hand account)

Batman: Soul of the Dragon (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)

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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Set in the midst of the swinging 1970s, this Elseworlds adventure finds Bruce Wayne training under a master sensei. It is here that Bruce, along with other elite students, is forged in the fire of the martial arts discipline. The lifelong bonds they form are put to the test when a deadly menace arises from their past. It will take the combined efforts of Batman, world-renowned martial artists Richard Dragon, Ben Turner and Lady Shiva, and their mentor O-Sensei to battle the monsters of this world and beyond!

This movie is a throwback to the martial arts films of the ‘70s that brought the Eastern discipline to the forefront of American culture and cinema. Opening with a quick secret spy sequence, a flashback reveals Bruce’s indoctrination and introduces the lifelong friends he’s not spoken to in several years. The movie continues to look back throughout the narrative, highlighting characters’ strengths via training exercises and other challenges. Richard Dragon, voiced by Mark Dacascos, is a clear ringer for Bruce Lee, right down to his attitude and mannerisms. Action stars Michael Jai White and Kelly Hu voice Bruce’s other allies, each bringing a touch of their personalities to the characters. There’s no closure at the end, so one hopes this isn’t the last audiences see of these fighters.

Special features include: “Batman – Raw Groove”; “Producer Jim Krieg’s Far Out Highlights”; “A Sneak Peek at the next DC Universe Movie, Justice Society: World War II”; “Look Back: Superman: Red Son”; “Look Back: Batman: Gotham By Gaslight”; “From the DC Vault: Batman: The Animated Series, ‘Day of the Samurai’”; and “From the DC Vault: Batman: The Animated Series, ‘Night of the Ninja.’” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

Come Play (Blu-ray & Digital copy)

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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Desperate for a friend, Oliver (Azhy Robertson), a lonely boy who feels different from everyone else, seeks solace and refuge in his ever-present cell phone and tablet. When a mysterious creature named Larry uses Oliver’s devices against him to break into our world, Oliver’s parents (Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr.) must fight to save their son from the monster beyond the screen.

Taking its direction from other monster pictures, audiences only see glimpses of Larry until the end of the movie. However, most disturbing is the manner in which Oliver initially spots the creature — via his device’s camera and a facial recognition filter that identifies a face hiding in the darkness. There are at least two underlying meanings that can be derived from the picture. Firstly, everyone’s attachment to their devices is inhibiting their ability to connect in real-life, creating a pandemic of loneliness. Secondly, devices open people to a digital world filled with threats. Larry can be seen as a metaphor for online predators, preying on children with low self-esteem or who find themselves feeling alone. People may be surprised to discover Larry is a practical creature effect inspired by Jim Henson’s puppetry skills. There are obviously scenes that require CGI, but it adds a layer of frightening magic to know the creature exists in an FX workshop somewhere.

There are no special features. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Doom Patrol: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)

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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

DC’s strangest group of heroes: Cliff Steele a.k.a. Robotman (Brendan Fraser), Larry Trainor a.k.a. Negative Man (Matt Bomer), Rita Farr a.k.a. Elasti-Woman (April Bowlby), Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), and Victor Stone a.k.a. Cyborg (Joivan Wade) are back again to save the world — that is if they can find a way to grow up…both figuratively and literally. Following the defeat of Mr. Nobody, the Doom Patrol now find themselves mini-sized and stranded on Cliff’s toy race car track. Here they begin to deal with their feelings of betrayal with Niles Caulder a.k.a. The Chief (Timothy Dalton), while confronting their own personal baggage. And as each member faces the challenge of growing beyond their own past traumatic experiences, they must come together to embrace and protect the newest member of the family, Dorothy (Abigail Shapiro), Caulder’s daughter, whose powers remain a mysterious but real threat to bringing on the end of the world.

Everyone is still reeling from the revelation at the end of last season and trust at Doom Manor is at an all-time low. But they still band together to try to save Niles — not for him of course, but for his frighteningly powerful daughter. In the meantime, each of the very damaged outcasts are still grappling with their individual issues. Robotman is finding it challenging to process his anger and grief, resulting in the pummelling of unsuspecting rats. Jane’s personalities are on the verge of rebelling against their widespread suppression. Cyborg is falling into a depression. Larry contributes to the wider family theme by struggling with his failings as a husband and father. Elasti-Girl is the only one trying to make the best of things, turning her attention to mastering her powers. In the end, the show continues to deliver a great mix darkness and dark humour, building on the success of its inaugural season.

There are no special features. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

Scooby-Doo! and Guess Who?: The Complete First Season (DVD)

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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

The series follows the grand tradition of Scooby-Doo team ups and takes the idea to hilarious new heights. Faced with some of their toughest mysteries yet, Fred, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo join forces with some of the biggest names in celebrity and pop culture including NBA superstar Chris Paul, recording artist Halsey, George Takei, Christian Slater, Kenan Thompson, Steve Urkel (voiced by Jaleel White reprising his iconic role), Batman, Sherlock Holmes, The Flash, Wonder Woman and many more.

This reboot follows the same formula as the original series, maintaining the characters’ catchphrases and the unmasking that closes each episode. However, the unique addition to this show is every episode features a celebrity guest. Some appear to be playing themselves, while others are exaggerated versions of themselves in strange situations. For instance, Whoopi Goldberg is studying to be a psychic and Mark Hamill offers a Jedi mind trick, both of which are nods at iconic characters they played on the big screen. Steve Buscemi is an unexpected surprise guest, while George Takei seems like the perfect fit. The mysteries become increasingly predictable, but the revolving door of guest stars keeps everyone on their toes.

There are no special features. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

Six in Paris (DVD)

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Icarus Films

Six vignettes set in different sections of Paris, by six directors. “St. Germain des Pres” (Jean Douchet), “Gare du Nord” (Jean Rouch), “Rue St. Denis” (Jean-Daniel Pollet), and “Montparnasse et Levallois” (Jean-Luc Godard) are stories of love, flirtation and prostitution; “Place d’Etoile” (Éric Rohmer) concerns a haberdasher and his umbrella; and “La Muette” (Claude Chabrol), a bourgeois family and earplugs.

Released in 1965, the film features some of the most acclaimed French directors of the time. Outside of taking place in the same city, there’s no other connecting thread between the shorts. The stories highlight Paris to different degrees or in some cases not at all as one tale unfolds solely in the confines of a small apartment. None are really traditional stories as they don’t follow familiar formulas or end as expected. The whole movie runs 95 minutes, giving each filmmaker approximately 15 minutes to tell their story. Yet, none of them feel rushed or unfinished, attesting to the talent of the storytellers involved.

There are no special features. (Icarus Films)

Snowpiercer: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Set more than seven years after the world has become a frozen wasteland, the series centers on the remnants of humanity who inhabit a perpetually moving train, with 1001 cars, that circles the globe. Class warfare, social injustice and the politics of survival play out in this television adaptation.

Each episode begins with a character’s voiceover assessment of a situation, often connecting it to the bigger picture before each repeats the same line: “Snowpiercer, 1001 cars long.” The first episode opens with images reminiscent of the comics, before transitioning to live-action brutality as the train was set to embark on its maiden revolution. The series does an excellent job building its characters’ stories to the extent that viewers will find they’re even invested in the fates of periphery personalities. The class structure inspires rebellion, but Mr. Wilford runs a tight train and order is maintained at a cost. Though the first season’s narrative begins with a murder mystery — a great way to introduce a lot of characters by the way — by the end, Snowpiercer is a changed system. Of course, that’s nothing compared to the threat that meets them at the end of the season finale.

Special features include: “Overview”; “Class Warfare”; “Jennifer & Daveed – Behind The Scenes Interview”; “The Train”; and “Behind the Curtain: Art of the Frozen World.” (Warner Bros. 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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