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Review: New on DVD for January 6 (Includes first-hand account)

Black Sails: Season One (Blu-ray & Digital copy)


Anchor Bay Entertainment

In 1715, The Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean is at its apex. The former British colony of New Providence Island is now lawless territory, controlled by a few dozen of the most notorious pirate captains in history. The most feared among them is Captain Flint (Toby Stephens). As the British Navy returns to these waters, and the threat of extinction looms, another side of Flint emerges. A man driven by deep, complicated, even romantic motives. He will ally himself with the beautiful Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New), daughter of the local smuggling kingpin who turns the pirates’ loot into profits. Together, they forge a plan to hunt the ultimate prize, and by winning it, stave off reclamation of their home by a resurgent empire. Arrayed against them are a series of opponents: rival captains, jealous of Flint’s power; Eleanor’s father, whose ambitions for the island conflict with his daughter’s; and a young sailor, recently recruited onto Flint’s crew, who will somehow manage to constantly undermine his captain’s agenda. His name is John Silver (Luke Arnold).

Bahamas is notorious as a former port for pirates – the island even has a museum dedicated to its sordid history. This show illustrates what life at the trading post and rest stop was like, complete with murder and pervasive prostitution. Captain Flint was initially introduced in Tom Sawyer’s Treasure Island as the pirate whose booty the characters seek. This is the tale of how the captain gained the fortune with the help of (Long) John Silver. It’s quite brutal in its depiction with more than enough blood and violence as the pirates raid other ships for their cargo, killing everyone that stand between them and it. The women with recurring roles are not all sex workers and have varying levels of power, from entrepreneur to pirate to concubine. The season finale includes a lot of upheaval and interesting prospects for the next season.

Special features include: “Black Sails: A Look Inside”; “Dress To Kill”; “Pirate Camp”; “Folklore Is Finished: Pirate Politics”; “A Place In History”; and “Building The Behemoth.” (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

The Boys from Brazil (Blu-ray)


Shout Factory

Elderly Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman (Laurence Olivier) has made a life of seeking out the last remnants of the Third Reich. But when he investigates a lead about a mysterious plot to assassinate ninety-four seemingly unconnected men from around the world, he makes a terrifying discovery that has dire consequences for the fate of the human race. Lieberman’s desperate quest to stop the unthinkable launches him on a collision course with the sinister figure behind the plot: the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck).

While it is well-known Hitler ordered a number of experiments be conducted on prisoners as he sought a way to further the Aryan race, this film proposes the purpose of the research was far more nefarious. Substantial energies were dedicated to reproduction as they tried to discover methods to weed out unfavourable traits and ensure other preferred ones, such as blue eyes, would be dominant. However as Lieberman gets closer to the truth, the reality is more frightening than anyone could have imagined. Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, who also helmed Planet of the Apes, and adapted from a book by Ira Levin, who penned Rosemary’s Baby, this Oscar-nominated picture is a mystery thriller that only grows more alarming with every step.

Special features include: theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)

Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (Blu-ray)


Scream Factory

A victim of unspeakable evil while he lived, the “Candyman” (Tony Todd) has become evil incarnate in his afterlife. This time, he haunts the city of New Orleans, where a young schoolteacher named Annie Tarrant (Kelly Rowan) is struggling to solve the brutal murder of her father. The locals insist that he was slain by the Candyman, but Annie is not convinced… until she unwittingly summons the monster forth, learns the secret of his power, and discovers the link that connects her to him. But can she stop him before he kills again?

This is the sequel to Candyman, which is based on Clive Barker’s short story. This narrative attempts to humanize the monster somewhat. While Candyman continues his reign of terror, pitilessly slaying anyone foolish enough to call him or attempt to expose him, the movie also goes back to the beginning to reveal how he became the villain he is today. Disturbing artwork, effigies and unfaltering belief only add to the intimidation Candyman inspires. Rowan’s Annie isn’t the greatest horror movie heroine, but the connection weaved between the two characters works well enough as does the tale of his genesis.

Special features include: commentary by director Bill Condon; “The Candyman Legacy”; “Down Memory Lane”; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)

Get on Up (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)


Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

James Brown’s (Chadwick Boseman) ferocity, talent and ambition propelled him from his hardscrabble South Carolina roots to some of the most prestigious musical venues in the world, earning him a reputation as “the hardest working man in show business.” The film goes behind the scenes of his brilliant, six-decade-long career for an uncensored look at the turbulent forces that drove the legendary performer.

Director Tate Taylor demonstrated an aptitude for depicting adversity and humour with The Help. Now he applies that same ability with a bit of a musical flair to tell the story of James Brown. The singer’s childhood, which included an abusive father and extreme poverty, is revealed in flashbacks along with other key elements of his past at appropriate moments. As Brown rises to fame, his ego inflates and those around him — both personally and professionally — suffer under his tyranny. Boseman delivers an outstanding performance, portraying Brown through several decades and temperaments. Nelsan Ellis is also exceptional as Brown’s best friend and collaborator, Bobby Byrd, epitomizing the role of a supporting actor. The focus is on the man rather than the music, but the inseparable soulful soundtrack infuses the narrative with the singer’s energy.

Special features include: commentary by director and producer Tate Taylor; deleted, extended and alternate scenes; “Long Journey to the Screen”; “Chadwick Boseman: Meet Mr. James Brown”; “The Get On Up Family”; “Tate Taylor’s Master Class”; “On Stage with the Hardest Working Man”; “The Founding Father of Funk”; full and extended song performances. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Girls: The Complete Third Season (DVD)


HBO Home Entertainment

This season, Hannah (Lena Dunham) is in a committed relationship with Adam (Adam Driver), and the two are settling into a newfound domesticity in Hannah’s apartment. Hannah is also working on rehabilitating her writing career and concentrating on delivering her eBook to her eccentric publisher. Meanwhile, Marnie (Allison Williams) is meticulously working to achieve the life she feels she deserves. Nearing graduation, newly single Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) masterminds a plan to create a healthy (at least on paper) balance between partying and her studies. And, continuing on a streak of disrupting the lives of those around her, Jessa (Jemima Kirke) strikes up an ambiguous friendship with a flamboyant father figure.

The above description sounds very optimistic, but that’s just not the way things go in this series. There are several deaths, unexpected hook-ups and a lot of hurt feelings. Gabby Hoffman makes an appearance as Adam’s sister, who of course contributes to the drama as she arrives with her own baggage in tow. While each of the girls begins the season with good intentions, everything quickly goes downhill either by their own doing or the uncooperative powers of the universe. By the end of this season, the only one displaying any sign of hope is Hannah though even her optimism is surrounded by other disappointment. It seems like they could all use a change of scenery.

Special features include: six commentaries with cast and crew including Lena Dunham, Judd Apatow, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet and more; episodic recaps; and “Inside the Episodes.” (HBO Home Entertainment)

The Guest (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)


Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Recently discharged from the military, David Collins (Dan Stevens) unexpectedly shows up at the Peterson family’s doorstep, claiming to be their late son’s Army buddy. Welcomed into their home, the well-mannered stranger becomes part of the family until a shocking wave of violence raises daughter Anna’s (Maika Monroe) suspicions that the mysterious ex-soldier is not quite what he seems.

This narrative is derived from the same ilk as Single White Female, in which a seemingly normal psychopath infiltrates the lives of innocent people and turns their world upside down. David feigns to have had good intentions, but his transgressions aren’t exactly subtle. Stevens portrays David flawlessly. His Southern civility and the twinkle in his eye make it plausible that he could fool almost anyone. The smoothness with which he moves under attack complements his personality. His cordial nature remains even in battle as he looks to be nearly smiling when he’s respectfully inflicting injury or death on his opponents. Director Adam Wingard and frequent co-conspirator, writer Simon Barrett, splashed onto the horror scene with You’re Next, in which a character turned out to be more than she appeared — a scenario that’s been turned on its head in this picture.

Special features include: commentary by director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett; deleted scenes; and Q&A with Dan Stevens. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Looking: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)


HBO Home Entertainment

The show revolves around three 30-something friends living in San Francisco, who explore the exciting, sometimes overwhelming, options available to a new generation of gay men. Friendship may bind them, but each is at a markedly different point in his journey: Patrick (Jonathan Groff) is a 29-year-old video game designer returning to the dating world in the wake of his ex’s engagement; aspiring artist Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez), 31, questions the idea of monogamy amid a move to domesticate with his boyfriend; and the group’s oldest member, long-time waiter Dom (Murray Bartlett), 39, is facing middle age with dreams still unfulfilled. The trio’s stories intertwine dramatically as they search for happiness and intimacy in an unparalleled era for gay men.

It’s been nearly a decade since the American version of Queer as Folk ended its run and while this series is not a sexually graphic as its predecessor, it does offer much of the same camaraderie and drama. The three men could not be more different from each other, providing significant variation in their stories as well as their responses to situations. Patrick is a bit naïve but well-meaning; Dom suffers from a mild case of Peter Pan syndrome, refusing to grow up or date men his own age; and Agustin is incredibly jaded, but often lacks the finesse to make it attractive. With only eight 30-minute episodes, the guys experience a lot in a short period of time; but it’s all very interesting and causes audiences to look forward to where the story will take them next. And in case Groff’s name (or perhaps voice) seems familiar, he provides the voice of Kristoff in Disney’s Frozen.

Special features include: six commentaries by cast and crew. (HBO Home Entertainment)

No Good Deed (Blu-ray & Digital copy)


Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Terry (Taraji P. Henson) is a devoted wife and mother of two, living an ideal suburban life in Atlanta when Colin (Idris Elba), a charming but dangerous escaped convict, shows up at her door claiming car trouble. Terry offers her phone to help him but soon learns that no good deed goes unpunished as she finds herself fighting for survival when he invades her home and terrorizes her family.

There is something about Elba that makes him a very convincing bad guy in films. In this case, it’s a combination of his charm, good looks, calm demeanour and the way he delivers his lines that first wins Terry and audiences over and then frightens them with a flip of a switch. Everything about the story is calculated and deliberate, particularly when it comes to Colin. He takes his time in situations, whether gaining an invitation into Terry’s home or scaring his latest victim. While it’s not the most unpredictable thriller, there is an interesting plot twist that is sure to surprise most viewers.

Special features include: “Making a Thriller”; “The Thrill of a Good Fight”; and “Good Samaritan.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

SpongeBob: The Pilot, Mini-Movie & SquareShorts (DVD)


Paramount Home Media Distribution

It’s deep-sea hilarity with SpongeBob and pals in a two-part mini-movie, 42 shorts and the pilot episode.

The first-ever episode in the series sets the tone for the show with SpongeBob applying for a job at the Krabby Patty. Patrick encourages him to follow his dreams, Squidward discourages Mr. Krabs from hiring the ambitious grill cook and the mean-spirited restaurant owner sends the job candidate on an impossible quest. The mini-movie is part live-action as Patchy the Pirate, head of the SpongeBob fan club, plans an anniversary show and attempts to recruit celebrity guests, including Rosario Dawson, Will Farrell, Tina Fey, Robin Williams and LeBron James. Meanwhile, the Krabby Krew are preparing for an anniversary celebration of their own. Unfortunately the shorts are poorly edited and the very end of the majority of the one-minute stories are cut-off.

There are no special features. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)

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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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