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Review: Mistakes catch up with this week’s releases (Includes first-hand account)

21 Bridges (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital code)


Universal Pictures Home Entertainment & VVS Films

An embattled NYPD detective (Chadwick Boseman) is thrust into a citywide manhunt for a pair of cop killers after uncovering a massive and unexpected conspiracy. As the night unfolds, lines become blurred on who he is pursuing and who is in pursuit of him. When the search intensifies, extreme measures are taken to prevent the killers from escaping Manhattan as the authorities close all 21 bridges to prevent any entry or exit from the iconic island.

The movie begins as a straightforward cat-and-mouse chase throughout New York. The thieves leave a trail of destruction in their wake, making it easy to follow them from one stop to the next. But there are some things the cops couldn’t know and luck can’t explain. Boseman’s character may be an aggressive cop, but he’s also smart and not as trigger-happy as most of his colleagues believe. Paired with someone from narcotics, the hunt for blood and revenge turns into a mission to keep the suspects alive long enough to figure out what they accidentally stumbled upon. It’s a rare sight to see an entire city’s law enforcement working in such unison, which is equally unnerving and reassuring. The fast-paced thriller’s unexpected cast also includes J.K. Simmons, Sienna Miller, Taylor Kitsch and Stephan James.

Special features include: commentary by director Brian Kirk; deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes featurette; and trailers. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment & VVS Films)

Another Day of Life (Blu-ray & DVD)


GKids & Shout Factory

Intercutting animation with interviews and archival footage, the film conveys a rare immediacy as it tells of the outbreak of civil war following Angola’s independence from Portugal in 1975. Against all advice, journalist Ryszard “Ricardo” Kapuściński is intent on driving south into the heart of the bloody conflict to find the isolated rebel leader Farrusco. His animated trip through corpse-strewn roads conveys an undeniable urgency, while the documentary testimony reminds us that we are watching actual history.

The mixing of film mediums to recount historical events is becoming more common because it’s such an effective way to convey the past, while connecting it to the present. The boldly graphical animation sections are in English and the interviews with Kapuściński’s real-life friends are in their native tongues. The movie flows between the animation and live-action sequences seamlessly, telling a story while interweaving first-hand accounts of what it felt like to be in those moments or images of the actual people and war zone. Kapuściński’s fearless determination to capture the whole truth of the conflict made him many friends and admirers who took it upon themselves to help him succeed. It’s a harrowing story of journalism and revolution that will engross audiences with its unique depiction.

Special features include: making-of featurette; “Creating the Animated Characters”; and trailers. (GKIDS & Shout Factory)

Avatar — The Last Airbender: The Complete Series steelbook (Blu-ray)


Paramount Home Entertainment

Katara (Mae Whitman) and Sokka (Jack De Sena), siblings and members of the Water Tribe, help Airbender Aang (Zach Tyler) master the four elements needed to become the Avatar — master of water, earth, fire and air.

Each season is named after one of the elements Aang must still master and then primarily consists of his quest to find a suitable master to teach him. As the first season is water, Katara is equally anxious to go to the North Pole and train with their sister tribe. Travelling on Aang’s flying bison, they cover a lot of ground; but there are also numerous stops to help people or avoid the Fire Nation, who are their fiercest enemies. Prince Zuko is determined to capture the Avatar in order reconcile with his father, who, in the meantime, has taken up a war with all the nations in search of total supremacy. While Zuko’s tea-loving uncle tries to soothe the prince’s anger, his sister embarks on a destructive quest against all enemies of the Fire Nation. The series’ sequel, The Legend of Korra, is equally appealing as these tales unfold in the midst of great turmoil and affection.

Special features include: commentary on select episodes; “Behind the Scenes Kung Fu”; “The Making of Avatar — From Real Life to Animation”; “Behind the Scenes: The Voices of Avatar”; “Ask the Creators”; original uncut anamatic; “Behind the Scenes with the Avatar Cast & Crew”; “The Making of Avatar — Inside the Sound Studios”; “The Making of Avatar — Inside the Korean Animation Studios”; Avatar pilot episode with audio commentary; interview with creators and M. Night Shyamalan; “Avatar Super Deformed Shorts”; “Escape From the Spirit World: Animated Graphic Novel”; “The Women of Avatar: The Last Airbender”; “Book 3 Finale Pencil Test Animation”; and “Into the Fire Nation at San Diego Comic-Con.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)

Battle of Jangsari (Blu-ray & DVD)


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)

Give Me Liberty (DVD)


Music Box Films Home Entertainment

Medical transport driver Vic (Chris Galust) is late, but it’s not his fault. Roads are closed for a protest, and no one else can shuttle his Russian grandfather and émigré friends to a funeral. The new route uproots his scheduled clients, particularly Tracy (Lauren “Lolo” Spencer), a vibrant young woman with ALS.

This movie blends the immigrant experience with that of people who are differently abled. Vic has a huge heart that he wears on his sleeve, clearly having chosen this job not as a last resort but because he wants to help people. Unfortunately, on this day, being helpful could cost him his job. The Russian elders are never satisfied with Vic’s efforts even though he’s gone out of his way to help them, while a new middle-aged immigrant with the spirit of a playful ox both adds to and relieves some of the day’s stresses. At the start, Tracy is very angry about the deviation as she’s begrudgingly reliant on the bus to get to where she needs to go. However, in a narrative filled with ups and downs, they learn to laugh and embrace their own versions of the American Dream.

Special features include: Q&A with cast and filmmaker at NYC premiere; “Why Representation Matters” with Lolo Spencer; and image gallery. (Music Box Films)

Midway (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital code)


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

The Battle of Midway was a clash between the American fleet and the Imperial Japanese Navy, which marked a pivotal turning point in the Pacific Theater during WWII. The film, based on the real-life events of this heroic feat, tells the story of the leaders and soldiers who used their instincts, fortitude, and bravery to overcome the odds.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this movie is each of the key characters is based on an actual person who contributed to the war effort. The film focuses on various aspects of the strategic planning, from the intelligence office cracking the Japanese code to the officer who has to manoeuvre to act on their information to the pilots and gunners risking their lives every time they take to the air. Opening with the unexpected attack on Pearl Harbor, the film follows the military as they try to balance strategy with a desire for revenge. The story is strictly told from the perspective of those in uniform, only mentioning the government when appropriate. However, the picture also shows some of the plotting on the Japanese side as they believe they’ve devised the perfect plan to bring the U.S. to its knees. The picture’s effects are striking and the accomplished cast bring audiences right into the period war drama.

Special features include: commentary by director Roland Emmerich; making-of featurette; “The Men of Midway”; “Roland Emmerich: Man on a Mission”; “Turning Point: The Legacy of Midway”; “Joe Rochefort: Breaking the Japanese Code”; “We Met at Midway: Two Survivors Remember”; and theatrical trailer. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

Parasite (Blu-ray)


Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Meet the Park family, the picture of aspirational wealth, and the Kim family, rich in street smarts but not much else. Be it chance or fate, these two houses are brought together and the Kim’s sense a golden opportunity. Masterminded by college-aged Ki-woo, the Kim children expediently install themselves as tutor and art therapist to the Parks. Soon, a symbiotic relationship forms between the two families. The Kims provide “indispensable” luxury services, while the Parks obliviously bankroll their entire household. When a parasitic interloper threatens the Kims’ newfound comfort, a savage, underhanded battle for dominance breaks out, threatening to destroy the fragile ecosystem between the Kims and the Parks.

Writer/director Bong Joon Ho‘s film made history at the Oscars this year and it deserved every statue it was awarded: best director, original screenplay, international feature film and motion picture of the year. Though the Kims take advantage of the Park’s naiveté — namely orchestrating the dismissal of the staff in order to employ other members of their family — they’re not especially malicious or dangerous. They’re primarily swindlers who seize an opportunity to improve their situation. Unfortunately, there’s a factor they didn’t account for, threatening their position and complicating the solution. The script is concise and Bong never wastes a moment of screen time, using the depth of the film space and the entirety of the frame. The actors are outstanding, capturing the characters’ nuances of desperation and adaptability. All of these elements combine for an exceptional movie and crowd favourite.

Special features include: Q&A with director Bong Joon Ho. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Shutter Island steelbook (Blu-ray)


Paramount Home Entertainment

Based on the best-selling novel by Dennis Lehane, the film follows U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he navigates what appears to be a routine investigation that quickly turns sinister.

Director Martin Scorsese adapted Dennis Lehane‘s novel with such precision and skill, audiences will be inclined to watch the movie again and again to pick-up on things they missed the first time. Teddy and his partner arrive on the island that houses a mental hospital, which looks more like a prison as it’s sprinkled with guards governed by a warden. There are two doctors (Ben Kingsley and Max Von Sydow) with differing opinions on how to best treat the patients, but the Marshals are there because one of the patients disappeared. As they investigate, it’s clear there’s something fishy about the missing woman, but also about Teddy who’s suffered incredible trauma in his past. Ten years later, the film is still a masterclass in making a film with multiple layers supported by an excellent cast as DiCaprio gave one of his best career performances.

Special features include: “Behind the Shutters”; and “Into the Lighthouse.” (Paramount Home Entertainment)

Snatchers (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital code)


Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Senior year is going to rule! Thanks to her relationship with clueless hunk Skyler (Austin Fryberger), Sara (Mary Nepi) is totally in with the cool girls. But Skyler contracted an extraterrestrial bug during his summer vacation. After just one night together, Sara discovers she’s Nine. Months. Pregnant. Desperate to keep her condition on the DL, she turns to the only person she can trust: her nerdy ex-bestie, Hayley (Gabrielle Elyse). The girls soon realize this alien problem is only just the beginning.

This is an oddly hilarious movie about peer pressure, unprotected sex and teen pregnancy with an alien twist. Waking up with a full-term pregnancy, Sara grabs a once-baggy sweatshirt and does everything she can to hide from her mom and the rest of the world. Her new friends are too self-absorbed so she crawls back to the friend she left behind for help. A visit to Planned Parenthood turns disastrous and they’re suddenly left to defend everyone from Sara’s hideous offspring. It’s a bit episodic as the girls bounce from one situation to the next, but it’s surprisingly well done and an entertaining movie with lots of humorous carnage.

Special features include: commentary by directors and writers Stephen Cedars and Benji Kleiman, and writer Scott Yacyshyn; behind-the-scenes featurette; and blooper reel. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

The Twilight Zone (2019): Season One (Blu-ray)


Paramount Home Entertainment

Hosted by Academy Award and Emmy Award winner Jordan Peele, each of the 10 season one episodes is its own mind-bending journey into another dimension. Featuring contemporary, socially conscious storytelling, standout cast members in this anthology include Oscar nominee Kumail Nanjiani in his Emmy nominated role, Seth Rogen, Tracy Morgan, Greg Kinnear, Sanaa Lathan, Adam Scott, DeWanda Wise, Zazie Beetz, Ginnifer Goodwin, John Cho, and others.

Rod Serling’s legacy was creating a television show that used science fiction to deliver social commentary in a manner that was entertaining and thought-provoking. Peele has similarly made socially conscious horror movies and he’s now turned his focus to the small screen, reviving the eerie series to deliver provocative narratives for a contemporary audience. Each of the 10 stories is riveting as viewers wait to see the ultimate fate of these characters whose lives take an uncharted path. Though some of them include an element of the supernatural, the tales are still grounded in a reality close enough to our own to make the commentary accessible and relevant. A number of recognizable actors lead each chapter, while the special features often provide a bit of clarification for anyone unclear of what subject is at the heart of a given tale. The release also includes the black-and-white versions of each episode, though the crispness of the image doesn’t quite deliver that feeling of nostalgia.

Special features include: black-and-white versions of every episode; commentary on select episodes; deleted and extended scenes; “Opening the Door” featurettes; “Crossing Over”; and “Remembering Rod Serling.” (Paramount Home Entertainment)

We [Uncut Director’s Edition] (Blu-ray)


Artsploitation Films

During one hot summer, eight privileged but bored suburban teens begin to pull a series of harmless pranks that quickly escalate into increasingly depraved games. Their descent from innocence to ruthless predators involve arson, prostitution, pornography, assault and blackmail.

This film takes adolescent anarchy to the extreme as the girls use sex as both an outlet of self-expression and income. The boys are obviously happy to go along with their sexual experimentation and even more eager to share in the profits of their prostitution. But as the story and the apparent legal proceedings progress, it becomes clear someone was fatally injured by their antics. However, their distaste for life and pessimistic view of the world becomes more toxic with each testimony. Yet, it’s the last witness that’s most scandalous as he twists their actions into something else entirely. Everything from the four narrations to their outrageous actions is shocking, reminiscent of movies by nihilistic directors like Harmony Korine and Lars von Trier, including the divisive opinions of their films.

There are no special features. (Artsploitation Films)

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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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