The 33 (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
In 2010, 33 Chilean miners were buried alive following a catastrophic mine collapse. For 69 days, a team worked night and day to rescue the men as their families and the world waited for any sign of hope. Underground, in the suffocating heat 200 stories down, tensions ran high as provisions — and time — began to run out.
This is a formulaic movie about a rescue that gained international attention less than a decade ago. After briefly getting to know some of the miners and a not-so-subtle foreshadowing of the disaster to come, the men head down to what could have become their tomb. Although the end results are known, it is somewhat intriguing to more closely explore the efforts required to complete the mission as well as the personal rifts and bonds that form after being trapped for so many weeks. They casted as many recognizable Spanish and Latino actors for the key roles as possible, led by Antonio Banderas, which gives the film a slightly more authentic feel it may not have had otherwise.
Special features include: “The Mine Collapse”; “The 33: The World was Watching”; and theatrical trailer. (Warner Home Video)
A Place in Hell (DVD)
Nicole Hart (Noree Victoria) and a group of film students shoot a horror movie for their final grade on a Halloween fright farm in the New Jersey countryside. Meanwhile, Detective John McInnis (Lewis Smith) struggles to find redemption while consumed by his five-year obsession to catch a notorious serial killer (Atif Lanier). When a winter storm blankets the countryside, and the killer seeks refuge, the students quickly realize they are not alone. While facing his inner demons, McInnis could be their only hope.
This movie is terrible for so many reasons. Firstly, the acting is not at all convincing. Second, the non-linear narrative adds nothing to the story. Third, it’s incredibly cliché from the alcoholic retired cop still investigating the case to the teenagers unknowingly stumbling upon the serial killer’s hideout. Nonetheless, there are a couple of bright spots. Nicole is a relatively capable protagonist who is smart enough to run after discovering the first dead body rather than look for who might have done it. In addition, the murderer is atypical for this type of picture; as the script indicates, he’s black and could pass for a model. But these minor pluses are not nearly enough to redeem the picture.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada)
Adult Beginners (Blu-ray)
A young, narcissistic entrepreneur (Nick Kroll) crashes and burns on the eve of his company’s big launch. With his entire life in total disarray, he leaves Manhattan to move in with his estranged pregnant sister (Rose Byrne), brother-in-law (Bobby Cannavale) and 3-year-old nephew in the suburbs — only to become their nanny.
The reality of today’s economy has a lot of people taking business risks with the safety net of being able to move back home if things don’t pan out. In this case, his sister’s family lives in their childhood home so “moving back home” still technically applies even though his parents are not being saddled with his retreat. However once he steps through their door, most of his catastrophic luggage is dwarfed by the difficulties of managing a family. He’s almost immediately given responsibilities, which is actually somewhat healing even if he’s not the most conscientious caregiver. Meanwhile his sister’s life is imploding in so many more ways, yet she does her best to stay strong and make the best decisions for her family. The perfect storm scenario that unfolds is a little ridiculous, but it’s a passable dramedy with some solid moments.
Special features include: making-of featurette. (Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada)
Amos and Andrew (Blu-ray)
Andrew Sterling (Samuel L. Jackson) is a renowned black playwright who has no idea what’s in store when he purchases a home in a predominantly white suburban enclave. Suspected as a burglar while moving in, he finds himself on the receiving end of the law in a show of force more in line with a hostage situation. Realizing what could become a public relations nightmare, the police chief (Dabney Coleman) strong-arms hapless car thief Amos (Nicolas Cage) into holding Andrew hostage, the outcome of which will ultimately show the town’s true stripes.
This is a satirical comedy of errors that is often pointed as it addresses race and class relations. The ignorant residents of this sheltered community never even consider Andrew could be rightfully occupying the posh house — instead they shoot at him and nearly kill him on his own doorstep. Stuck in a lose-lose situation, Amos tries to appeal to his captive on the grounds that they’re both discriminated against; though it may be more reasonable in the case the career criminal than the distinguished artist. Jackson excels in the role of the angry black man who articulately argues his position and occasionally gives in to his short temper. Similarly, Cage is filled with frenetic energy that causes him to talk quickly and occasionally make sense. The incompetent characters their surrounded by only adds to the hilarity, while shrewdly underscoring the political commentary.
There are no special features. (Olive Films)
The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Series (DVD)
The biggest problems for Mayberry sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) came from the hijinks of his excitable-but-goodhearted deputy, Barney Fife (Don Knotts), and trials of raising his young son, Opie (Ron Howard). But there was little that couldn’t be solved with home cooking by Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier).
Even though this series went off the air nearly 50 years ago, it is still remembered for the careers it established (Griffith, Knotts and Howard) and the loveable characters it introduced. Even the town of Mayberry became a pop culture reference for a small, quiet community. Similarly, Barney Fife became a symbol of inept police officers — a characterization Knotts would never truly escape. Although it was shot in the ‘60s, the show had the feeling that it took place at a simpler time. Most of the criminals Andy confronted were moonshiners or just passing through, maintaining the overall wholesomeness of the series. At home, Opie kept his father on his toes while Aunt Bee kept him wondering with her inherently romantic nature.
Special features include: original sponsor spots. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Badge of Honor (DVD)
On her first day of the job, brand new Internal Affairs detective, Jessica Dawson (Mena Suvari), gets caught up in the aftermath of a violent drug bust that includes an officer shooting of an innocent young teenager. The facts, as reported by the two narcotic detectives, just don’t seem to add up. As she struggles to find the truth, the ramifications of a single lie reverberate throughout the whole precinct. Soon she finds she can’t trust anyone, including the precinct captain (Martin Sheen).
This is a typically exaggerated, corrupt cop story with recognizable actors and forgettable performances. The characters are so generic and their actions generally so outrageous, it’s difficult to engage in the unfolding narrative. Dawson receives the characteristic scorn provided I.A. investigators, which is multiplied because she’s a woman who previously spoke out against her partner. In spite of her discoveries, her investigation seems superficial; it lacks the grit desired in such a supposedly seedy tale. As the bodies pile up, the movie’s ability to keep audience’s attentions digs a deeper hole.
There are no special features. (Alchemy)
Black Mass (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
In 1970s south Boston, FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) persuades Irish mobster James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) to collaborate with the FBI in order to eliminate their common enemy: the Italian mob. This unholy alliance spiralled out of control, allowing Bulger to evade law enforcement while escalating his power to become one of the most notorious gangsters in U.S. history.
Whitey Bulger is an infamous figure in the crime world because as far as many people are concerned, he was a government informant — although as the movie demonstrates, he viewed the association differently and it certainly wasn’t that simple. The film doesn’t attempt to chronicle Bulger’s rise to power, but rather it focuses on the period in which he had “an alliance” with the FBI. Using information revealed at Bulger’s trial by his associates and a book written by local journalists, filmmakers try to show how this level of corruption was able to breed for more than a decade. Depp completely transforms into Bulger, even convincing those that new the real character before he went on the run of his authenticity. With the support of a strong ensemble cast, the film realistically captures this notorious section of Boston history.
Special features include: “The Manhunt for Whitey Bulger”; “Johnny Depp: Becoming Whitey Bulger”; and “Black Mass: Deepest Cover, Darkest Crime.” (Warner Home Video)
When friend and worldly prep-school student Skip (Rob Lowe) emboldens his naive roommate Jonathan (Andrew McCarthy) to step outside of his dating comfort zone and move to the next level — dating older women — he’s in for the surprise of his life when the “older woman” Jonathan picks up turns out to be Skip’s mother Ellen (Jacqueline Bisset).
The opening act contains two jaw-dropping and defining events that characterise Skip and Jonathan’s friendship going forward. The atmosphere of this prep school is more like a frat house with similar hijinks that include alcohol and nudity. Skip is much more outgoing and adventurous, though he inspires Jonathan to be bolder with mixed and sometimes pitiful results. The big twist is typical of this genre and era, but it’s revealed with scandalous effect and reverberates for the remainder of the picture. Though the affair was based on seemingly harmless lies, it’s the truth and its consequences that dominate the third act. Nonetheless, the array of young, familiar faces amongst the cast makes all the less meaningful scenes more amusing.
There are no special features. (Olive Films)
Criminal Activities (Blu-ray)
Four friends (Christopher Abbott, Rob Brown, Michael Pitt and Dan Stevens) stumble into a deal too good to refuse; but when the investment goes bad, they learn that part of their funding came from a notoriously ruthless crime boss (John Travolta) and it’s payback time. Now they must successfully kidnap a family member of a rival kingpin (Edi Gathegi) in order to erase the life-threatening debt. In way over their heads, if they can complete the assigned task without screwing up, they just might escape with their lives.
This is a fish out of water story in which the guppies find themselves thrown into a tank of sharks. The only crime these guys committed thus far was being obscene jerks in school. Reunited at a funeral, they go into business together, unwisely trust someone to contribute a large sum of money and end up owing a mobster double the amount. And then the movie gets interesting. The bungled kidnapping leads to some noteworthy conversations with their captive, who can’t believe he allowed himself to be taken by amateurs. As the film progresses, the plot thickens and audiences discover there is far more going on behind the scenes than most of the players realize.
Special features include: deleted scenes; and interview with John Travolta and Jackie Earle Haley. (RLJ Entertainment)
Girls: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
As the season begins, Hannah (Lena Dunham) leaves New York to attend the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the hopes of becoming a more serious writer, while confronting uncertainty in her relationship with Adam (Adam Driver). Meanwhile, back in New York, Marnie (Allison Williams) pursues a music career while balancing her professional and romantic relationship with Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach); Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) graduates and begins interviewing for jobs, while sorting out her relationship with Ray (Alex Karpovsky); and Jessa (Jemima Kirke) is trying out sobriety through AA, though her ability to stir up drama remains undiminished.
This season everyone is embarking on a new path in their life, but starting fresh holds far more complications than any of the girls had anticipated. Hannah is excited to finally have a promising opportunity to focus on her writing, but going back to school isn’t as easy as it appeared; perhaps Iowa wasn’t ready for her sometimes harsh New York attitude. Similarly, Shoshanna is finally done school and ready to get out there; but she quickly learns interviewing for jobs is also a skill that needs some sharpening. Marnie is really struggling with the choices of her heart, personally and professionally, but Desi thinks he has the answer to their problems. And Jessa never stops saying what’s on her mind, regardless of who it may affect.
Special features include: seven commentaries with cast and crew including Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet and more; deleted and extended scenes; making-of featurettes; season three recap; episodic recaps; “Inside the Episodes”; Marnie & Desi’s full “Breathless” performance; Marnie’s solo “Riverside” performance; and gag reels. (HBO Home Entertainment)
Labyrinth of Lies (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Germany 1958. In those years, “Auschwitz” was a word that some people had never heard of, and others wanted to forget as quickly as possible. Against the will of his immediate superior, young prosecutor Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling) begins to examine the case of a recently identified teacher who was a former Auschwitz guard. Radmann soon lands in a web of repression and denial, but also of idealization. He devotes himself with utmost commitment to his new task and is resolved to find out what really happened. He oversteps boundaries, falls out with friends, colleagues and allies, and is sucked deeper and deeper into a labyrinth of lies and guilt in his search for the truth. But what he ultimately brings to light will change the country forever.
Though it’s well-known for more than a decade after WWII Germans simply tried to bury the atrocities they inflicted on the rest of Europe, it’s quite another thing to see that ignorance systematically propagated. Radmann is desperate to handle a case more pressing than traffic violations, but he has no comprehension of the assignment he accepts because his generation has been shielded from the truth of his country’s past. This movie’s focus on post-war Germany is fascinating and delivered in a manner that doesn’t sanitize the issue, but looks at it with a discerning eye. Radmann’s personal journey is meant to mirror the devastation experienced by his equally unaware peers who eventually had to come to grips with the sins of their fathers.
Special features include: commentary by director Giulio Ricciarelli and actor Alexander Fehling; deleted scenes; and Jewish Film Festival Q&A with Director Giulio Ricciarelli and Actor Alexander Fehling. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
No Way Out (Blu-ray)
In a fit of rage, Secretary of Defense David Brice (Gene Hackman) murders his mistress (Sean Young). To keep a lid on the scandal, Brice’s loyal aide (Will Patton) creates the perfect cover-up: he “invents” a more enticing killer — a Russian spy — and then enlists Naval Commander Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner) to find him. But as a chilling twist of fate would have it, Farrell also has a strong connection to the victim and now all the clues he’s been hired to uncover are leading straight to him. In a desperate race against time, Farrell’s search for the killer is not only a matter of national security, but also a matter of saving his own hide.
This is a traditional thriller with a ticking clock. The first act sets the stage, establishing relationships and personalities. Farrell is characterized a good guy who is willing to break the rules and risk his own safety to help others. Brice and his aide assign Farrell to the investigation as if it’s just a run-of-the-mill job, which immediately invokes the “no questions asked,” conspirator perception of the government. Farrell is at the centre of the search in more ways than one, so he’s generally juggling multiple priorities while trying to avoid raising anyone’s suspicions; he actually goes pretty far before having to finally reveal some of his cards. All of the actors are well-suited for the roles; however, Young is unexpectedly irritating and difficult to believe.
Special features include: commentary by director Roger Donaldson; and theatrical trailer. (Shout Factory)
Pressure Point (Blu-ray)
A young psychiatrist (Peter Falk), exasperated by his failed attempts to help a black patient who hates whites, asks to be reassigned. In a story told in flashback, his seasoned superior (Sidney Poitier) recounts his own experience during the war when he treated a Nazi youth (Bobby Darin) who hated blacks.
Falk essentially has a cameo in the film, but Poitier and Darin both deliver outstanding performances in their respective roles. Even though Poitier’s character has been breaking down barriers as a black professional, he finds himself at the end of his rope in what appears to be an impossible situation. It seems unfeasible that a racist young man would gain any assistance from a black authority figure. Yet the prison psychiatrist proves that good at his job and the man desperately in need of help. The man’s confessions are disturbing, while the psychiatrist’s steadfast composure is remarkable. This is undoubtedly an actor’s picture and the co-leads more than meet the challenge of this complex connection.
There are no special features. (Olive Films)
Saints & Strangers (DVD)
This is a dramatization of the Pilgrims’ harrowing voyage and arrival to America. Upon landing they encounter hunger, disease, and the proud but wary Native Americans. Loyalties are tested and hard-fought alliances between leaders become strained when the Pilgrims suspect a traitor in their midst.
Much like history, this is a complicated portrayal of the relationships, wars and truces established throughout the area. The narrative is not restricted to the new colony, also showing the conflict their presence fostered between the local tribes. Squanto plays a significant role in creating peace between the pilgrims and the natives, though his character is pushed to the fringes amongst his own people because of his ability to understand the British and their distrust of all things European. The shifting dynamics over time is relatively interesting and regains some momentum when the prison ships land. Overall, for a historical drama, it weaves a reasonably appealing story.
Special features include: deleted scenes. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Show Me a Hero (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
In an America generations removed from the greatest civil rights struggles of the 1960s, Eddie Wacisko (Oscar Isaac), the young mayor of a mid-sized American city is faced with a federal court order to build a small number of low-income housing units in the white neighbourhoods of his town. His attempt to do so tears the entire city apart, paralyzes the municipal government and, ultimately, destroys the mayor and his political future.
The title of the miniseries is one half of a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald that concludes with “… and I’ll write you a tragedy.” There are many parts to this narrative, but they blend together seamlessly to create a cohesive and captivating whole. On the one hand there is Wacisko, an aspiring politician who is unwittingly recruited to run for mayor against the incumbent during one of the most divisive moments in Yonkers’ history. Then there are the residents, led by a well-aged and impassioned Catherine Keener, that oppose the development on economic grounds, even though their opinions clearly stem from racist beliefs and ignorance. And the story is rounded out with the tales of three lower income families who would benefit from the development. Director Paul Haggis does a respectable job capturing the essence of these stories, though it does get off to a bit of a slow start. However, the exceptional acting, particularly by Isaac, really draws audiences into the lives of the characters.
Special features include: making-of featurette. (HBO Home Entertainment)
Togetherness: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Brett (Mark Duplass) is a straitlaced sound designer trying to rediscover himself while his wife Michelle (Melanie Lynskey) is eager to rekindle her passion for romance and life. Their lives are shaken up with the arrival of Michelle’s sister Tina (Amanda Peet), who comes to stay with them as she desperately tries to find a husband and get her bouncy-castle business off the ground, and Brett’s best friend Alex (Steve Zissis), who decides to give his stalled acting career one last try.
Some of the most popular sitcoms take real-life situations and exaggerate them for the audience’s amusement, which makes them occasionally relatable and generally entertaining. However, there are few dramedies that genuinely capture what it’s really like to be married. Brett and Michelle are hitting realistic roadblocks in their relationship and reacting honestly to them. Alex and Tina are at the end of their respective ropes, and while they initially appear to be the best thing to happen to each other they may actually turn out to be the worst. The humour seems to develop naturally from their interactions, but there’s also a fair amount of dejection that organically stems from their connections and doesn’t appear counterintuitive to the show’s premise. The season ends on a pretty heavy cliff-hanger that will have enormous implications next season.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Inside the Episode”; and “Amanda & Steve.” (HBO Home Entertainment)
The Trials of Jimmy Rose (DVD)
Jimmy Rose (Ray Winstone) is a career criminal newly free after 12 years in prison. Greeted with cold disdain from his wife, Jackie (Amanda Redman), Jimmy decides to stick to the terms of his parole: hold down a job and stay right in the eyes of the law. But when he finds out that his beloved granddaughter is in trouble, Jimmy will go to extraordinary lengths for his family.
Jimmy’s efforts to stay on the straight-and-narrow are quite commendable, though it’s not without some assistance. His new manager at a hardware store demonstrates great understanding, supporting his new, reformed employee when his past invades the store and running unexpected interference as required. However, when it comes to family, there’s nothing Jimmy won’t do — and that becomes abundantly clear by the film’s conclusion. From cracking heads to assuming someone else’s debt to betraying his own code of honour, Jimmy refuses to let his granddaughter be a victim of the local drug trade. Winstone is solid, allowing Jimmy’s fire to be unleashed in appropriate moments and making his devotion to those he loves undeniable.
There are no special features. (Acorn)
The Vincent Price Collection III (Blu-ray)
Master of the World: A group of people set out to inspect strange occurrences in a nearby mountain and are taken prisoner by Captain Robur (Price) on his giant airship. His mission in life is to stop all wars – even if it means attacking every nation state to achieve it.
Tower of London: Richard III (Price) is haunted by the ghosts of those he’s murdered in his attempt to become the King of England.
Diary of a Madman: A magistrate (Price) visits a prisoner who suddenly dies after claiming a possessing spirit forced him to commit murder. Soon after, the judge begins to experience strange things in his home and a woman is brutally murdered.
An Evening of Edgar Allen Poe: Vincent Price recites four Edgar Allen Poe stories: The Tell-Tale Heart, The Sphinx, The Cask of Amontillado, and The Pit and the Pendulum.
Cry of the Banshee: In seventeenth century England, Lord Whitman (Price) wages a violent war against anyone suspected of witchcraft. But one of his victims uses her occult powers to curse his family, enlisting unknowing help from someone in his household.
Vincent Price is such a formidable and distinctive character, it’s basically a pleasure to watch him in any role. His hypnotic voice brings distinction to any personality, regardless of their true colours. Employing him to read Poe’s macabre tales is awe-inspiring as he recites each word with such vigour. As Richard III, he portrays debilitating insanity heightened by overwhelming ambition. In this performance, his speech is complemented by his wild eyes that equally convey madness. Unfortunately, Cry of the Banshee is a victim of its time and consequently made the weakest of the collection; disturbingly, the 1970 film consists of a number of sexual assaults that distract from the remainder of the story. However, the difference between the two cuts of the film included is surprisingly significant.
Special features include: 12-page book with rare photos; (Master of the World) commentary by actor David Frankham; “Richard Matheson: Storyteller” extended cut; photo gallery of images from David Frankham’s personal collection; posters, lobby cards and behind-the-scenes photo gallery; and theatrical trailer; (Tower of London) interview with director Roger Corman; interview with producer Gene Corman; two episodes of Science Fiction Theatre (1956): “One Thousand Eyes” And “Operation Flypaper” both starring Vincent Price; and posters, lobby cards and behind-the-scenes photo gallery; (Diary of a Madman) commentary by film historian and author Steve Haberman; poster and lobby card gallery; and theatrical trailer; (An Evening of Edgar Allen Poe) commentary by film historian and author Steve Haberman; interview with writer/producer/director Kenneth Johnson; and behind-the-scenes photo gallery; (Cry of the Banshee) two high-def cuts; commentary by film historian and author Steve Haberman; interview with director Gordon Hessler; posters, lobby cards and behind-the-scenes photo gallery; TV and radio spots; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)