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

Bad Moon (Blu-ray)

Scream Factory

By day, Ted Harrison (Michael Paré) is a photojournalist visiting family in the Pacific Northwest. By night, he transfigures into a horrific werewolf. Dead men tell no tales, so Ted’s sure he alone knows about his vile double life. The secret, however, may be out. The family dog Thor, devoted to defending the household, has his suspicions.

This is basically a tale of beast vs. beast as Ted’s animal instincts and desires increasingly overwhelm his human ones; suddenly he’s actively trying to discredit Thor in order to remove the dog from its defensive position. Consequently the actual stars of the movie are Thor and the young boy to whom he belongs as it’s their adventures and bond that inform the rest of the narrative. Ted is simply the villain who threatens their existence and creates the film’s conflict. That said, Paré is quite convincing as the evildoer whose sideways glance is evidence enough of his sinister intentions. Of course audiences must wait until the final act to witness Ted’s transformation, which is on par with other werewolf movies of the ‘80s. Finally, the unrated bonus feature is basically an extension of the sex scene at the beginning of the movie.

Special features include: new director’s version supervised and approved By Eric Red; commentary by writer/director Eric Red (director’s version only); commentary by writer/director Eric Red and actor Michael Paré (theatrical cut); “Nature of the Beast: Making Bad Moon”; unrated opening scene from the director’s first cut (sourced from vhs); three storyboard sequences; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice: Ultimate Edition (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Fearing the actions of a god-like superhero (Henry Cavill) left unchecked, Gotham City’s own formidable, forceful vigilante (Ben Affleck) takes on Metropolis’s most revered, modern-day savior, while the world wrestles with what sort of hero it really needs. And with Batman and Superman at war with one another, a new threat quickly arises, putting mankind in greater danger than it’s ever known before.

This movie adds a touch of realism to previous narratives by showing these over-the-top superhero antics do, in fact, have consequences (…forget the monetary costs). Even though he typically doesn’t throw the first punch, Superman is being held accountable for the various casualties of his gallantry. Yet the film takes its sweet time getting to the inevitable and anticipated “fight.” This is especially absurd when one realizes that in this telling, the two cities exist next to each other. Nonetheless, the film is generally and superficially entertaining — if you choose not to look at it too closely. On the other hand, the movie’s flaws are numerous and frustrating, particularly regarding its depiction of women. This “ultimate edition” also includes an extended cut of the film and although most of the additional footage was correctly cut, there is one sequence that completely changes one of the character’s motivations and personal trajectory.

Special features include: extended cut with 30 minutes of additional footage; “Uniting the World’s Finest Gods and Men: A Meeting of Giants”; “The Warrior, The Myth, The Wonder”; “Accelerating Design: The New Batmobile”; “Superman: Complexity & Truth”; “Batman: Austerity & Rage”; “Wonder Woman: Grace & Power”; “Batcave: Legacy of the Lair”; “The Might and the Power of a Punch”; “The Empire of Luthor”; and “Save the Bats.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

Kill Zone 2 (Blu-ray)

Well Go USA

When an undercover cop (Wu Jing) gets too close to revealing the mastermind of a drug syndicate, his cover is blown. Double-crossed and under a false identity, he’s thrown into a Thai prison, where a guard (Tony Jaa) decides to help the wrongly imprisoned inmate after discovering his warden (Max Zhang) may have an even deadlier operation hidden within the prison walls.

This film features three expert martial artists —Jaa, Jing and Zhang — who combine to make every action sequence an awesome spectacle of physical prowess. This movie thrives on complex fight scenes that generally involve multiple combatants and intricate movements. There is even a prison riot sequence that consists of hundreds of extras and a long shot capturing the action. The story is equally complex and often unfolds in parallel scenes as several stories play out simultaneously, occasionally intersecting with explosive results. At two hours, it’s a little longer than necessary but one also couldn’t imagine cutting any of the stunning fight sequences spread throughout the picture.

Special features include: deleted scenes; making-of featurette; and trailer. (Well Go USA)

Kung Fu Panda 3 (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)

DreamWorks Animation and Fox Home Entertainment
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After reuniting with his long-lost father (Bryan Cranston), Po (Jack Black) travels to a secret village and meets tons of hilarious new panda friends and family members. But when the supernatural villain Kai (J.K. Simmons) challenges all the Kung Fu masters across China, Po must discover the teacher within himself and train his clumsy brethren to become the ultimate band of Kung Fu Pandas.

When Po’s biological father arrives, Mr. Ping feels threatened by their immediate comradery. Having never met, they still appear to have so much in common with Po inheriting his father’s looks, appetite and “pandasthma.” Po is excited to learn about his ancestry, which becomes integral to the story, but he is obviously also the product of the goose that raised him and who he still refers to as “Dad” (together, they are “dads”). With the exception of Tigress, the female presence in these films has not been strong. Here, she maintains a prominent role in the narrative; though due to the nature of the story, she is always second to Po. Finally, the villain is more frightening than is typical of a children’s film with Kai appearing surprisingly intimidating in certain scenes. But the darkness is balanced with the amusing antics of Po and his dads.

Special features include: deleted scenes; “Everybody Loves a Panda”; “Po’s Posters of Awesomeness”; “Panda Paws”; “Make a Panda Party Paper Pal”; Play Like a Panda”; and “The Origin of ‘Skadoosh.’” (DreamWorks Animation and Fox Home Entertainment)

The Magicians: Season One (Blu-ray & Digital copy)

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) is a brilliant grad student chosen to attend Brakebills University for Magical Pedagogy, a secret upstate New York university specializing in magic. However, he and his fellow grad student friends soon discover that the magical fantasy world they read about as children is all too real and poses grave danger to humanity.

This TV show is a mixture of Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, but with adult content. There’s sex, mutilation, death and cursing – magical and otherwise – spread throughout all 13 episodes. It begins rather benignly with recruitment, a fractured friendship and a haunting. However, the chief villain, ominously named “The Beast,” is a rather disturbing character with an equally troubling origin. Based on a collection of books, the series attempts to include a lot of details about spells, rivalries, relationships and backstories, which makes it feel a little scattered even though it’s not especially difficult to follow. The season finale leaves audiences with a significant cliff-hanger that will likely bring back even the least involved viewer as one must see what happens.

Special features include: deleted scenes; “The World of The Magicians”; and gag reel. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Miles Ahead (Blu-ray & Digital copy)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

In the midst of a prolific career at the forefront of modern jazz, which Miles Davis (Don Cheadle) referred to as “Social Music,” he virtually disappears from public view for a period of five years in the late 1970s, his musical voice stifled and numbed by drugs and pain medications. Dave Braden (Ewan McGregor), a wily music reporter, forces his way into Davis’ life and, over the next couple of days, the two men unwittingly embark on a wild and sometimes harrowing adventure to recover a stolen tape of the musician’s latest compositions. Plagued by years of regret and loss, Davis flirts with annihilation until he once again finds salvation in his art.

This is not a traditional biopic chronicling the life of a late musician; instead this film attempts to capture Davis’ feelings and experience during this turbulent period in his life. His relationship with Braden is rather curious as they flirt with friendship, even though it’s always undercut by the artist’s distrust for the journalist. Nonetheless, they embark on drug-fuelled adventures, have each other’s backs in armed confrontations, and share a deep appreciation for music in spite of their diverse backgrounds. The pursuit of Davis’ unreleased recording forms the basis of the narrative it repeatedly changes hands and requires further tracking. As a result, the movie is a cross between fiction and a crime thriller. However, the concluding moments of the film that finally reveal the contents of the recordings are the likely the best of the film. Cheadle’s efforts to learn to mediocrely play the trumpet pay off, while the rest of his performance is suitably cool and erratic.

Special features include: commentary by director Don Cheadle and co-writer Steven Baigelman; “The Truth: Becoming Miles Davis”; and 2016 Sundance Film Festival Q&A with Don Cheadle, Ewan McGregor, Emayatzy Corinealdi and LaKeith Lee Stanfield. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

The Return of the Living Dead [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray)

Scream Factory

On his first day on the job at a medical supply warehouse, poor Freddy (Thom Mathews) unwittingly releases toxic gas from a secret U.S. military canister, unleashing an unbelievable terror. The gas reanimates an army of corpses, who arise from their graves with a ravenous hunger for human brains. And luckily for those carnivorous cadavers, there is a group of partying teens nearby, just waiting to be eaten.

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In an instance of horror meets comedy, writer/director Dan O’Bannon introduced audiences to the brain-eating zombie, forever immortalizing the catchphrase, “Brains!” The total antithesis to George Romero’s living dead movies, O’Bannon’s monsters are fast, strong, somewhat intelligent and able to speak. Moreover the classic headshot is ineffective as every body part is capable of movement, even when severed from the rest of the body. Some of the cast is recognizable from other genre pictures as they all come together to make this silly movie a passably good time. Between the punk kids partying in the woods, the warehouse staff with an inkling of what’s happening and the nearby cemetery full of corpses waiting to be animated, this movie has no shortage humorous possibilities. Moreover, the extended featurette in which cast and crew discuss the production is a candid tell-all with some interesting titbits.

Special features include: zombie subtitles for the film; commentary with Gary Smart (co-author of The Complete History of The Return of the Living Dead) and Chris Griffiths; commentary by actors Thom Mathews, John Philbin And make-up effects artist Tony Gardner; commentary by director Dan O’Bannon and production designer William Stout; commentary by the cast and crew featuring production designer William Stout and actors Don Calfa, Linnea Quigley, Brian Peck, Beverly Randolph and Allan Trautman; “The Decade Of Darkness”; “In Their Own Words – The Zombies Speak”; “The FX of the Living Dead”; “Party Time: The Music of The Return Of The Living Dead”; “Horror’s Hallowed Grounds”; The Return of the Living Dead workprint; “More Brains: A Return To The Living Dead”; “A Conversation with Dan O’Bannon”; “The Origins Of The Living Dead”; “The Return Of The Living Dead — The Dead Have Risen”; “Designing The Dead”; still galleries; TV spots; and theatrical trailers. (Scream Factory)

Sleeping Giant (DVD)

D Films

Teenager Adam is spending his summer vacation with his parents on rugged Lake Superior. His dull routine is shattered when he befriends Riley and Nate, smart aleck cousins who pass their ample free time with debauchery and reckless cliff jumping. The revelation of a hurtful secret triggers Adam to set in motion a series of irreversible events that test the bonds of friendship and change the boys forever.

This is not a feel-good coming of age movie as it’s more reminiscent of Stand by Me than The Sandlot. The kids do not always get along and the rifts formed between them are rather messy. In addition to trying to manage their own conflicts, they’re burdened with an adult secret that bursts their childlike bubble and forces them to have some adult conversations. At the same time, audiences are brought along as the kids go through the regular motions of hanging out during the summer, from the arcade to buying weed from the local dealer to observing the eccentric year-round residents. The film’s final act is it’s most powerful as perceived damage is transitions to real, life-altering consequences.

Special features include: commentary; extended scenes; “The Music of Sleeping Giant”; Cannes documentary; and bloopers. (D 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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