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Review: Good storytelling is the difference in this week’s releases (Includes first-hand account)

The Beauty Inside (Blu-ray)

Well Go USA

All relationships have issues, but Woo-jin’s identity crisis is a new one — in fact, it’s a new one every day. Every morning, Woo-jin wakes up in a different body. His age, gender, and nationality may change, but the one constant in his life is Yi-soo — the woman he loves. She knows his secret, and loves him anyway. With every transformation, Woo-jin has to figure out how to return to his own body and reunite with Yi-soo.

“Body jumping” is not a new idea as sci-fi stories have capitalized on the possibilities such a phenomenon would present for ages. However this is a rather unique take on the concept, which is also transferred to the more familiar and relatable setting of a romantic comedy. There are no special effects as audiences are not meant to witness the transformation, but rather the side-effects of its occurrence. Before Woo-jin meets Yi-soo, the narrative explores the life he’s grown accustomed to that includes daily woodworking in his shop and occasionally taking advantage of his more handsome appearance for a night on the town. Yi-soo’s acceptance of his condition is commendable, but it too has its consequences. Trying to capture and make sense of all their experiences makes for a rather long runtime (more than two hours) and an extensive cast that surprisingly manages to maintain a consistency in Woo-jin’s personality. This could have gone poorly, but to the filmmakers’ credit they pull it off rather well.

There are no special features. (Well Go USA)

Bridge of Spies (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)

Disney Home Entertainment

James Donovan (Tom Hanks), a Brooklyn lawyer, finds himself thrust into the centre of the Cold War when the CIA sends him on the near-impossible task to negotiate the release of a captured American U-2 pilot.

Even though there is little action in this picture — or even a score for the opening third of the film — it still generates a fair amount of intensity and excitement. The Coen brothers‘ script takes what could have been a rather boring procedural of men just talking in rooms and makes it incredibly engaging. The courtroom drama and backroom deals in a foreign country are complemented by rousing dialogue, unexpected humour and outstanding performances. The 141-minute historical drama unfolds steadily without ever feeling too long or overwrought. There’s no attempt to establish a clear timeline, instead choosing to simply transition from one significant event/meeting/discussion to the next. Hanks’ earnestness lends itself perfectly to this character. However, Mark Rylance often outshines his co-star when the two share the screen. Abel’s casual acceptance of his circumstances has a very charming effect on his character.

Special features include: “A Case of the Cold War”; “U-2 Spy Plane”; “Berlin 1961: Re-creating the Divide”; and “Spy Swap: Looking Back on the Final Act.” (Disney Home Entertainment)

Falling Skies: The Complete Fifth Season (DVD)


As season five opens, all breed of beast and mutant are running rampant on earth. The Espheni’s power core has been destroyed, and humans are now ready to fight on their terms. And after four years of being tortured, Tom (Noah Wyle) and the 2nd Mass are filled with rage, ready to destroy the enemy in an all-out battle to determine the fate of Earth.

In this final season, it truly becomes do-or-die for Tom and the 2nd Mass. The size of the Espheni resistance continues to grow as band together with other militias and soldiers. However, this expansion also opens the door to more betrayals via clones and traitors. Luckily Tom is more dedicated than ever to winning the war and eliminating the threat, making the difficult decisions and putting the cause ahead of individual needs. Ben’s spikes continue to play a pivotal role in the 2nd Mass’ strategies as he more readily volunteers to use his unique ability. Inevitably, there are casualties of war and series regulars are equally on the chopping block.

Special features include: “Farewell to the Skies”; “A Look Back”; and 2015 WonderCon panel with cast. (TNT)

Falling Skies: The Complete Series (Blu-ray & Digital copy)

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The series chronicles the extraordinary story about life and survival in the wake of a catastrophic alien invasion that leaves most of the world completely debilitated. College professor Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) becomes an unlikely leader of the Boston-born resistance movement known as the 2nd Mass following the alien attack. He’s joined by Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood), who becomes the primary medic of the 2nd Mass, and Capitan Weaver (Will Patton), a fierce leader of the resistance, as well as a number of other ordinary people called upon to become heroes.

Alien invasion is a common movie premise, but it’s also appeared repeatedly on the small screen. The difference is basically the length of the characters’ plight, which can span several years in detail by more specifically describing their wins and losses. However this series skips the particulars of the actual invasion, beginning six months after the initial attack. Tom’s intensive knowledge of military history thrusts him into the improbable position of resistance leader; but through every season, his commitment to reclaiming Earth becomes increasingly stronger. Expectedly, the complexity of the alien enemy becomes ever more intricate and overwhelming. At the same time, the scheme devised at the end of five seasons to crush the seemingly indefeatable enemy seems unoriginal and somewhat simplistic; though this can probably be attributed to an unwelcome cancellation and the need for a conclusion.

Special features include: commentaries; behind-the-scenes featurettes; character interviews. “Inside the Episodes”; and WonderCon and Comic-Con panels. (TNT)

Martyrs (Blu-ray)

Anchor Bay Entertainment

Ten-year-old Lucie flees from the isolated warehouse where she has been held prisoner. Deeply traumatized, she is plagued by awful night terrors at the orphanage that takes her in. Her only comfort comes from Anna, a girl her own age. Nearly a decade later and still haunted by demons, Lucie (Troian Bellisario) finally tracks down the family that tortured her. As she and Anna (Bailey Noble) move closer to the agonizing truth, they find themselves trapped in a nightmare — if they cannot escape, a martyr’s fate awaits them.

This is a remake of the 2008 French movie of the same name, which emerged during the country’s horror heyday of pushing the limits of genre cinema. The stories are very similar with only minor differences until the mid-point of the movie when America’s ideals dictate they must construct a hero and a happy-ish ending. As a result, the purpose of the torture and the repulsion of a secret society that encourages these experiments is much more tangible in the original production. Though the trauma Lucie experienced as a child is not explicitly detailed in this film, it manifests in gruesome nightmares of monsters that attack her physically and mentally.

Special features include: “Martyrs: First Look.” (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

Our Brand is Crisis (Blu-ray)

Warner Home Video

A failing Bolivian presidential candidate enlists the services of an American management team, led by “Calamity” Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock), a deeply damaged but brilliant strategist. She comes out of self-imposed retirement for a chance to beat her professional nemesis, the loathsome Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton). With Candy working for the opposition, the race becomes a down-and-dirty battle between political consultants, where nothing is sacred and winning is all that matters.

There is currently a lot of conversation surrounding the quality of roles offered to women versus men. This picture entered the exchange when George Clooney was unavailable and suggested it be reworked for his friend, Bullock. There was no reason the film’s protagonist needed to be male, or why an acclaimed actress couldn’t handle the complex role. In the bonus features, Bullock talks about how she kept a diary while reading the script to ensure she conveyed her manic character’s emotions accurately while shooting out of sequence. In the end it doesn’t quite make the point intended, landing kind of soft regarding political games and manipulation – but it may have made a more important one off-screen about women in Hollywood.

Special features include: “Sandra Bullock: A Role like No Other.” (Warner Home Video)

Rock the Kasbah (Blu-ray)

VVS Films

Richie Lanz (Bill Murray), a rock manager with a golden ear and a taste for talent, has seen better times. When he takes his last remaining client on a USO tour of Afghanistan, she gets cold feet and leaves him penniless and without his passport. While trying to find his way home, Richie befriends a band of misfits and discovers Salima (Leem Lubany), a young girl with an extraordinary voice. Against all odds, Richie will take his last shot at creating an unlikely superstar.

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This movie begins as a very quirky, offbeat comedy that allows Murray to really let loose and play up his eccentricities. Richie is confident, charismatic and can talk his way in or out of anything given a little time. The mood shifts after Richie discovers Salima because he and the audience are confronted by the less entertaining prospect of unequal rights and war in the country. It’s all fun and games while people are pointing guns at each other, but the idea of a woman being forbidden to sing Cat Stevens in public is distressing. Everything that occurs going forward is both courageous and somewhat inconsiderate as it often exemplifies a desire to push American ideals on the rest of the world. Nonetheless, the cast is excellent. Kate Hudson has played a seductress before, but this role is a little dirtier and lets her be a bit tougher than usual. Bruce Willis is a total surprise, but an unforgettable source of humour.

Special features include: deleted scenes; “Richie Lanz: The Man and the Music”; and “Bill Murray Rocks.” (VVS Films)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)

Disney Home Entertainment

In this story of love and friendship, the kind and beautiful princess Snow White wins the hearts of the Seven Dwarfs and triumphs over the evil plans of a wicked Queen.

Snow White became the first Disney princess to grace the screen in 1937, which also makes her older than most of the people that will be watching this release. However the magic of Disney animations is they are timeless and appeal to every new generation of movie watchers. Snow White’s story is widely known because of this film, and the music helped to endear her and the dwarfs to audiences for decades. Restoration processes have made these Blu-ray transfers beautiful, while not undercutting the fact that every cell of the 83-minute film was hand-drawn. Of course it’s somewhat dated now and relies on gender stereotypes, but that shouldn’t take away from the original feat and appeal.

Special features include: “In Walt’s Words”; iconography; “DisneyAnimation: Designing Disney’s First Princess”; “The Fairest Facts of Them All”; and alternate sequence. (Disney Home Entertainment)

Truth (Blu-ray & Digital copy)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

As a renowned producer and close associate of Dan Rather (Robert Redford), Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) believes she’s broken the biggest story of the 2004 election: revelations of a sitting U.S. President’s military service. But then allegations come pouring in, sources change their stories, document authenticity is questioned, and the casualties begin to mount.

Many people will remember this story emerging, but it disappeared just as quickly. Then Rather retired, which some connected to these events, but no one could have guessed what occurred behind the scenes. Blanchett and Redford are unsurprisingly excellent with the latter capturing the essence of the news icon instead of concocting a caricature of him. The film doesn’t leave much of the guesswork to audiences who are likely unfamiliar with the minutia of a newsroom or the overarching politics of the conglomerates; instead, it uses its handful of protagonists to lead the viewer through the affair that ended the careers of two prominent investigative journalists. If those watching decide the predominant motivation for everything that happened was a cover-up (as the filmmakers suggest), it can be quite disconcerting. After all, who will be willing to ask the tough questions now?

Special features include: commentary by director James Vanderbilt, and producers Brad Fischer and William Sherak; deleted scenes; “The Team”; “The Reason for Being”; and Q&A with Cate Blanchett, Elisabeth Moss and James Vanderbilt. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Uncaged (DVD)

RLJ Entertainment

Orphaned as a child in the wake of a grisly tragedy, Jack (Ben Getz) was raised alongside his cousin and best friend, Brandon (Zack Weiner). At age 18, however, Jack’s otherwise uneventful life takes a sinister turn when he’s suddenly plagued by a series of bizarre sleepwalking episodes. After repeatedly waking up in the woods naked with no memory of the night before, Jack straps a camera to himself to document his behavior and discovers a shocking truth — he is the unwitting heir to a monstrous family legacy of savagery, slaughter, and unrelenting horror from which death may be the only escape.

These films about inherited monster traits always raise the same question: why don’t parents or relatives warn the clueless teenagers more effectively? Instead they are left to deal with this deadly transformation on their own and possibly harm their loved ones in the process. In this case, a Go-Pro camera alerts Jack to his true nature. Combined with vague clues from family members, he’s left to figure it out on his own. The physical transformation is reminiscent of Jack Nicholson’s in Wolf, but more CGI. The part that makes even less sense is the incorporation of a stranger being abused by her husband and who Jack decides needs his help. This is just an unnecessary subplot in an otherwise clichéd werewolf movie.

Special features include: commentary by cast and crew; and outtakes. (RLJ Entertainment)

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Zombie Fight Club (Blu-ray)

Scream Factory

In a corner of the city, in a building riddled with crime there is an outbreak of zombies. When one young woman (Jessica C) witnesses her boyfriend falling victim to the zombie horde, she must team up with a police officer (Andy On) in order to stay alive and escape the building. But the once warm-hearted chemistry teacher, Wu Ming, is now the zombie leader following the chaos, which has transformed him into a cruel, vicious and formidable opponent.

This movie goes from a monster version of The Raid to a more deranged version of Gladiator. The first hour of the movie is a dry introduction to a bunch of doomed characters, followed by a dizzy and grotesque battle with the undead. A group of cops are able fight the zombies with a bit more success, but most of the building’s (and the world’s) occupants fall prey to the epidemic. The final third of the picture occurs in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by a select few. The weak motivation given for the lowly teacher’s transition to warlord is not the least bit satisfying. Moreover, the rise of this society and the source of its privileges remain unexplained. Even the zombies are poorly executed as they wake up with mysterious wounds and rapid decay regardless of how they met their mortal end.

Special features include: stunts; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)

Zoolander (Blu-ray)

Paramount Home Media Distribution

Clear the runway for Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller), VH1’s three-time male model of the year. His face falls when hippie-chic Hansel (Owen Wilson) scooters in to steal this year’s award. The evil fashion guru Mugatu (Will Ferrell) seizes the opportunity to turn Derek into a killing machine. It’s a well-designed conspiracy and only with the help of Hansel and a few well-chosen accessories like Matilda (Christine Taylor) can Derek make the world safe for male models everywhere.

As far as quotable movies go, Stiller’s runway comedy is probably at the top of many lists. The story and the actors’ delivery are all so memorable and entertaining, it demands multiple viewings. From a misidentified library for ants to an inability to turn left to a ridiculous look worth a fortune, Derek is an unbelievable but hysterical invention. Wilson and Ferrell are equally entertaining, each also reaching the ranks of unforgettable with personal skate parks and wild hairdos. And the main cast’s prestige is multiplied by the countless celebrity cameos, including David Bowie, David Duchovny, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Tommy Hilfiger, Paris Hilton, Milla Jovovich, Heidi Klum, Lenny Kravitz, Christian Slater, Gwen Stefani, the ever present Jerry Stiller and so many more. It took 15 years for the long-rumoured sequel to finally reach theatres and one can only hope it approaches the elevated bar set by its predecessor.

Special features include: commentary by Ben Stiller and writers Drake Sather and John Hamburg; deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary with Ben Stiller; “A Really, Really, Really Cool teaser for Zoolander No. 2”; breakdance fight rehearsal; alternate brainwashing sequence storyboards; VH1 fashion awards skits; The Wiseguys music video for “Start the Commotion”; public service announcements; “MTV Cribs”; interstitials; photo galleries; and outtakes. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)

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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