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Review: New on DVD for January 19 (Includes first-hand account)

Adventure Time: Stakes! (DVD)

Cartoon Network

Marceline wishes to be an undead, red-sucker no more, but can Princess Bubblegum concoct a cure? At the same time, five of Marceline’s most fearsome foes return from her past. What might her most powerful nemesis, the Vampire King, have in store? Finn, Jake, Princess Bubblegum and their friends join the Vampire Queen’s fight against her immortal enemies. But for Marceline, the stakes have never been higher.

Even though Finn and Jake are the series’ stars, once in a while their friends get to borrow the spotlight. This miniseries is unique in that Marceline is the centre of attention for eight full episodes. While previous episodes revealed her relationship to the Ice King, this series uncovers how she gained her powers and became a vampire. The first few chapters focus on Marceline’s past, in which the Ice King abandoned her and she began to use her powers against vampires. Once the audience is caught up, it returns to the present and each episodes concludes with her conquering an enemy before getting to the big boss stage. Marceline remains one of the show’s more complex and fascinating characters.

Special features include: animatics; song demos; and art gallery. (Cartoon Network)

The Devil Wears Prada — 10th Anniversary Edition (DVD)

Fox Home Entertainment

As assistant to fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), young Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) has landed a job “to die for” — a job that might, in fact, be the death of her.

It’s impossible to know what ever persuaded casting departments to classify Hathaway as a plain Jane or wallflower, but following her charming performance in The Princess Diaries the actress was selected to play an ambitious, unstylish, aspiring journalist who gets a coveted position at a top fashion magazine. Her transition from dormouse to trendy assistant is not a farfetched one making the Cinderella aspect of the story somewhat moot. On the other hand, the outrageous demands of her boss are what are most remarkable about the narrative. Streep channels her inner mean girl and adds a dash of villainous Disney matriarch to perfectly depict the boss from hell. Apparently based on real-life experiences, this film still holds up after multiple years and viewings.

Special features include: commentary by director David Frankel, producer Wendy Finerman, costume designer Patricia Field, screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna, editor Mark Livolsi and director of photography Florian Ballhaus; deleted scenes with director and editor commentary; “The Trip to the Big Screen”; “NYC and Fashion”; “Fashion Visionary Patricia Field”; “Getting Valentino”; “Boss from Hell”; and gag reel. (Fox Home Entertainment)

The Diary of Teenage Girl (Blu-ray & Digital copy)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

In 1976 San Francisco, Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley) is growing up at the crossroads of the fading hippie movement and the dawn of punk rock. Like most teenage girls, she is longing for love, acceptance and a sense of purpose in the world. Minnie begins a complex love affair with her mother’s (Kristen Wiig) boyfriend, “the handsomest man in the world,” Monroe Rutherford (Alexander Skarsgård).

Though it may not be for everyone, keeping a diary is almost expected of adolescent women. Talking about all their thoughts and feelings can be tiresome and impractical, but recording them can be therapeutic. Of course the risk is always that someone uninvited may become privy to her innermost thoughts and secrets… but who would possibly look under the bed? Minnie’s inspired to document her life after she loses her virginity, as it provides her with an outlet to express her feelings free of judgement since she’s sharing her lover with her mother. Putting legal violations aside, all the things that are morally wrong with their relationship are permanently evident and blatantly stated; yet her story remains riveting because she appears fully aware and dismissive of any argument that doesn’t satisfy her raging hormones. (The fact that this film even acknowledges that pubescent girls have carnal needs too is a feat in itself.) Minnie’s diary tapes combined with her comic book drawings provide a provocative account of her growing up.

Special features include: commentary by director Marielle Heller and cast; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; and LA Film Festival Q&A with Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, and Marielle Heller. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Dragon Blade (Blu-ray)

VVS Films
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When a corrupt Roman leader (Adrien Brody) and his giant army attempt to claim the Silk Road, a fearless commander (Jackie Chan) and his group of trained warriors must team up with a defected General (John Cusack) to unite 36 nations and defend their homeland.

The second act is reminiscent of similar war movies in which coalitions turn into friendships as the newfound partners combine their efforts to achieve an ultimate goal. Conversely, the brutality of the final act is very much in conflict with the harmony demonstrated earlier. Even though the peace they achieve couldn’t last forever, the bloodshed that takes place is quite abrupt. Nonetheless, the scenes on the battlefield are the movie’s strongest. The vast armies clashing and using their distinctive skills to get the upper-hand are quite impressive. Unfortunately the events leading up to these fights are less so. Nonetheless, Chan is accustomed to playing ancient Chinese warriors, so this role is well-suited to him. Though Brody is not on screen for most of the film, his character does play a significant role in the overall story. Cusack, on the other hand, has the depth to play a general forced to make the hard choices; but he lacks the toughness also expected of a seasoned soldier.

Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; cast and crew interviews; and music videos featuring Jackie Chan. (VVS Films)

The Guardian (Blu-ray)

Scream Factory

An enchanting guardian (Jenny Seagrove) enters the home of new parents Phil (Dwier Brown) and Kate (Carey Lowell) possessing impeccable references and an affinity for children. But as her true intentions are revealed, the battle for the child’s soul begins.

The alternative title for this film could be “Tree Lady” as it revolves around mythical wood worship and magical powers provided to the faithful. The film starts with a sacrifice presumably so audiences aren’t too confused and have some comprehension of the fate they should fear for the baby rather than some abstract threat. It seems somewhat improbable that this couple would so easily allow this stranger to become the key decision-maker and provider for their newborn, but their supposedly demanding careers can’t spare them for an instant. It’s unclear why the wolves act as the tree’s soldiers, but it does allow for some interesting chase scenes. And of course there are Evil Dead-style sequences of killer branches and Sleepy Hollow-esque bleeding trees. Director William Friedkin’s horror follow-up to The Exorcist isn’t nearly as frightening, but it does still produce some attractive imagery.

Special features include: “A Happy Coincidence – an interview with actor Dwier Brown”; “From Strasberg To The Guardian — an interview with actor Gary Swanson”; “A Mother’s Journey — an interview with actress Natalija Nogulich”; “Scoring The Guardian — an interview with composer Jack Hues”; “Tree Woman: The Effects of The Guardian — an interview with makeup effects artist Matthew Mungle”; “Return To The Genre — an interview with director/co-writer William Friedkin”; “The Nanny — an interview with actress Jenny Seagrove”; “Don’t Go Into The Woods — an interview with co-writer Stephen Volk”; and still gallery of behind-the-scenes photos. (Scream Factory)

The Night Crew (Blu-ray)

VVS Films

A group of hard up bounty hunters must survive the night in a desert motel against a horde of savage criminals and soon realize that their prisoner, a mysterious woman, is much more than she appears.

This is a narrative that feels as if it has an epic back story that’s never revealed. Instead, it starts in the middle of a fairly ordinary battle between good and evil. Far from a typical vampire tale, the prisoner doesn’t reveal her true nature until the final act. Up to then, the bounty hunters are left to their own devices against a barrage of ruthless killers with predictably poor aim. Thus the focus is on the camaraderie between the four partners, which contributes to an uncharacteristically sappy conclusion for what is primarily a shoot ’em up action movie. Yet in spite of all the violence, this film lacks excitement and only seems like a fraction of a possibly more interesting story.

There are no special features. (VVS Films)

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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