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Review: Murder isn’t the only or even worst crime in this week’s releases (Includes first-hand account)

Bad Education (DVD)


Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) and Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney) reign over a popular Long Island school district on the verge of the nation’s top spot, spurring record college admissions and soaring property values. Between them, they racked up over $11.2 million dollars in extravagant personal expenses.

This is a gripping drama about unprecedented corruption in the school system. As long as the school continues to perform well, no one asks many questions of its administrators who are living very comfortable lifestyles. However, when Pam’s son makes a purchasing error, red flags are raised and an investigation is started into the school’s finances. The film is at its best when Frank and Pam begin to scramble, trying to find any way they can to avoid prison, not to mention trying to keep their jobs. Jackman and Janney are excellent in these roles, exuding the charm and confidence that helps people get away with such extravagant fraud. Similarly, when their embezzlement is discovered, they take a calm, calculated approach to the problem as they try to wriggle their way out of it.

Special features include: “Based on a True Story”; “The Perception of Perfection”; and “Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney: Virtual Conversation.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

Bull: Season Four (DVD)


Paramount Home Entertainment

Season four returns a few months after the bombshell revelation that Dr. Jason Bull (Michael Weatherly) is expecting a child with his ex-wife and Benny’s (Freddy Rodriguez) sister, Isabella Colón (Yara Martinez). While Bull prepares for impending fatherhood at home, his work at TAC suffers in the wake of Benny’s resignation as TAC’s staff attorney after learning Bull slept with Isabella at their father’s funeral. As Bull readies the team to mount a defence for a young bartender on trial for involuntary manslaughter following an inebriated customer’s mass killing, he faces uncharacteristic doubt that they can win without his top lawyer and closest friend by his side in court.

The season definitely gets to a rocky start with the rift between Bull and Benny, though it appears their falling out has been going on for some time since Isabella is close to giving birth. The demands of fatherhood and the lack of sleep make Bull slightly less reliable, but his very competent team is able to pick up the slack. However, each of them also experience serious personal drama this season, ranging from a medical emergency to a tragic loss to the end of a relationship. In the meantime, they tackle some interesting cases, including a judge charged with helping a suspect escape, an insurance company refusing to pay for damages, a woman accused of murdering her husband though she has no memory of his whereabouts, and a family torn apart by tragedy forced to defend their actions in court.

Special features include: commentary by Michael Weatherly, Freddy Rodriguez and Bethany Rooney on “Labor Days”; commentary by Michael Weatherly on “Fantastic Voyage”; and “Four Bagger.” (Paramount Home Entertainment)

Evil Boy (DVD)


Well Go USA

Several years after their son’s disappearance, a grieving couple adopts a feral boy, who begins to eerily resemble their child more with each passing day. While the mother believes they have found their son, her husband is certain that he died. As strange accidents begin happening around the boy, the pair soon wonders whether they’ve adopted something not entirely human.

The exact circumstances around their son’s disappearance is only gradually revealed as the story unfolds, but the gist is he went out one day and never returned. Now the father believes adopting a child will help fill the void and aid in the healing process, though the mother feels very differently… until she meets the feral boy so desperately in need of care and a loving home. She immediately begins to coddle him and treat him as their son, which understandably upsets the father. However, they each do a 180 when circumstances change, trading roles around the boy who appears to be becoming a greater threat the longer he lives with them. There’s an apparent twist in the story, but it’s quite obvious once they drop the first clue, so the reveal is not especially surprising.

Special features include: trailers. (Well Go USA)

First Cow (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Two travelers (John Magaro and Orion Lee), on the run from a band of vengeful hunters in the 1820s Northwest, dream of striking it rich — but their tenuous plan to make their fortune on the frontier comes to rely on the secret use of a wealthy businessman’s prized dairy cow.

This is a slow, deliberate narrative that keeps audiences engaged for its entirety, though the opening scene does spoil the last. Nonetheless, the unlikely friendship between a Chinese nomad and an American settler is an intriguing element that will hold viewers’ interest in itself. One is an inherent entrepreneur, while the other has a unique skill that actually holds promise for an enterprising business opportunity. Unfortunately, their success relies on the gullibility of the wealthy businessman, which cannot possibly last forever in such close quarters. Their plan walks the line between ingenuity and theft, making it difficult to bet against the pair who are just trying to get their piece of the American dream. Magaro and Lee have great chemistry together, making their camaraderie genuine and their path to audience’s hearts easier.

Special features include: “A Place in This World.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

Ghost in the Shell steelbook (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

2029: A female cybernetic government agent, Major Motoko Kusanagi, and the Internal Bureau of Investigations are hot on the trail of “The Puppet Master,” a mysterious and threatening computer virus capable of infiltrating human hosts. Together with her fellow agents from Section 9, Kusanagi embarks on a high-tech race against time to capture the omnipresent entity.

It’s the 25th anniversary of this ground-breaking anime film that poses questions about the soul, mechanization of the flesh and consciousness of artificial intelligence against the still striking backdrop of a futuristic world. The beautiful imagery is the result of one of the first effective fusions of traditional cell and CG animation. The cyborgs in the movie are the majority as people sign their bodies over to corporations in exchange for prolonged life and enhanced abilities. As their bodies become less human, they cling to the existence of their “ghost” or soul. Self-identity in a technologically advanced society is a prevalent theme throughout the movie. Writer/director/producer Mamoru Oshii’s sci-fi film’s popularity exceeds that of the manga from which it’s adapted and has inspired a number of filmmakers, including The Wachowskis.

Special features include: commentary by Mary Claypool (animation writer and English language scriptwriter), Eric Calderon (animation producer and writer), Richard Epcar (voice of “Batou”), and Charles Solomon (animation historian and critic); “Accessing Section 9: 25 Years into the Future”; “Landscapes & Dreamscapes: The Art and Architecture of Ghost in the Shell”; production report & digital works featurette; and theatrical trailer. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

Mighty Oak (DVD)


Paramount Home Entertainment

Manager Gina Jackson’s (Janel Parrish) life is given new purpose when she meets a young guitar prodigy. Convinced the boy is the reincarnation of her brother, lead singer of Army of Love, who died 10 years ago, she embarks on a mission to get the band back together.

This is an idealistic story of potential reincarnation, but more likely an attempt by Gina to regain the love and stability of her former life. The boy, in the meantime, has his own issues to deal with, unable to afford instruments of his own to express his natural musical talent. While music serves as an escape from his addicted mother, it creates just as many problems. The soundtrack is a mix of generic pop songs that are PG-enough for the kid to fall in love with, but angsty enough to represent the former teenagers. There’s a lot happening in an effort to make the mediocre narrative more interesting, but it only succeeds in breaking the story’s flow.

Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette. (Paramount Home Entertainment)

Retaliation (Blu-ray & Digital copy)


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Malky (Orlando Bloom) is a demolition worker whose life receives a seismic shock when, out drinking with friends at a local pub, he sees a disturbing figure from his past: the man he holds responsible for a traumatic childhood incident. Fueled by anger, Malky sets out on a path of vengeance — and discovers that no one can escape the consequences of their sins.

This is a deeply intimate and occasionally disturbing depiction of a man scarred and haunted by his past. Malky is a bit of a loner who has trouble maintaining relationships with friends or lovers. However, he’s very attached to his elderly mother, who heavily relies on him in her old age. Malky’s reaction to seeing his childhood abuser is very unexpected and in sharp contrast to what people believe should be a “normal” reaction. What follows is a mix of premeditated assault, blind rage, dysfunctional relationships and an attempt to heal. Bloom dives deep into this complex role, which, in spite of the synopsis and poster image, has nothing in common with the middle-aged, kick-ass action movies of his colleagues. Instead, this a darkly emotional look at the long-term consequences of trauma.

Special features include: commentary with co-directors Ludwig Shammasian and Paul Shammasian; and making-of featurette. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

Rob Zombie Trilogy steelbook (Blu-ray)


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon Zombie), Otis Driftwood (Bill Moseley), Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe), and Rob Zombie‘s other killer characters wreak havoc in the blood-soaked trilogy that made them famous. Two young couples cross paths with Otis and the cannibalistic Fireflys while touring America’s backroads in House of 1000 Corpses. In The Devil’s Rejects, Sheriff Wydell deals with depraved, hostage-taking murderers holed up in a rundown motel in his uniquely unhinged way. Baby, Otis, and Captain Spaulding are finally put behind bars in 3 From Hell… but can evil really be locked away?

Seventeen years ago, before Rob Zombie took on the tale of Michael Myers, he introduced audiences to one of the screen’s most dysfunctional families: the Fireflys. Patriarch Captain Spaulding instilled his kids, Baby and Otis, with his passion for violence and murder, which they in turn based the family business on in the first film. While the initial picture was just a dark and grisly depiction of torture and death, Zombie’s approach became more nuanced in the sequel. Set against one of the best slasher soundtracks, the Fireflys became more extreme in their methods, but the manner of portraying their carnage was more artful. It also has one of the most inspired and memorable closing scenes of a horror picture. Unfortunately, Haig was very ill and passed away during the shooting of the third chapter in the trilogy, which significantly impacts the family’s dynamic and requires the introduction of a new a character to complete the trio. Although it attempts to capture the bloody magic of its predecessor, the Fireflys may have been better served by a new and different narrative. Nonetheless, this steelbook is a beautifully designed ode to the deadly family.

Special features include: commentary by director Rob Zombie; commentary by Sid Haig, Bill Moseley and Sheri Moon Zombie; deleted scenes; making-of featurettes; cast and crew interviews; and casting and rehearsal footage. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

We Bare Bears: The Movie (DVD)


Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

When the bears’ love of food trucks and viral videos gets out of hand, it catches the attention of the menacing Agent Trout from the National Wildlife Control, who pledges to restore the “natural order” by separating them forever. Chased from their home, Grizz decides there’s only one thing they can do to find refuge — move to Canada! The Bears embark on an epic road trip filled with new friends, dangerous obstacles, and massive parties. But most importantly, the perilous journey will force the Bears to face how they first met and became brothers, in order to keep their family bond from splitting apart.

For anyone unfamiliar with the cute little stacking bears, the brief introduction to their friendship is a nice way to get to know them before launching into the bigger story. Canadians will find the song about the country and poutine very amusing, while the internet sensation song is a fun and flashy number. It’s a road trip movie, though with how big their personalities are, they don’t need to meet too many people along the way to keep it interesting. Agent Trout is an overzealous maniac whose definition of “natural” is the complete opposite of the real meaning, making him the ultimate environmental villain. In the end, it’s a

Special features include: commentary; deleted scenes; early sketches; movie pitches; and animatics and pencil tests. (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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