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Review: The ties that bind are tested in this week’s releases (Includes first-hand account)

Baywatch: Extended Cut (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)


Paramount Home Media Distribution

When a dangerous crime wave hits the beach, legendary Lt. Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) leads his elite squad of badass lifeguards on a mission to prove you don’t have to wear a badge to save the bay. Joined by a trio of hot-shot recruits including former Olympian Matt Brody (Zac Efron), they’ll ditch the surf and go deep undercover to take down a ruthless businesswoman (Priyanka Chopra), whose devious plans threaten the future of the bay.

The promotion leading up to this film’s theatrical release hinted at its ridiculousness, but nothing could prepare audiences for some of its outlandishness. The movie consists of a steady stream of laughter, generally at Brody’s expense though the heavier recruit must endure his fair share of fat jokes too… even though he proves quite useful in several situations. Rather than trying to recreate the original series, the movie exaggerates its sillier aspects such as Mitch’s virility and their illegitimate crime fighting. It’s also completely R-rated, which filmmakers put to full use via the coarse language and lewd humour. Johnson is perfect as the alpha male with an insult or comeback for any situation, while Efron proves very comfortable with his self-image by embracing every chance to make fun of Brody.

Special features include: extended version of the film; deleted and extended scenes; “Meet the Lifeguards”; “Continuing the Legacy”; and “Stunts & Training.” (Paramount Home Media Distribution)

Bring it On: Worldwide #Cheersmack (Blu-ray & Digital copy)


Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

When Destiny (Christine Prosperi), captain of three-time national champions “The Rebels,” is challenged to a global cheer showdown by an edgy new team called “The Truth.” Cheer Goddess (Vivica A. Fox) organizes a virtual battle for squads from all around the world. It seems like the whole world wants to take down Destiny and her team, and they just might succeed, unless Destiny can rise to the challenge, set her ego aside and figure out who her real friends are.

In spite of being a movie about cheerleaders, the original movie won over audiences with its tongue-in-cheek (and thumb-in-genitals) portrayal of one of America’s most dangerous sports. Their spirit and devotion to cheerleading is simultaneously ridiculed and justified alongside impressive routines and eclectic music. This sequel, on the other hand, is the combination of popular dance movies and Pitch Perfect, in which the head cheerleader incorporates the word “cheer” into everything and they compete in both street battles and online challenges. But without the sass or atypical characters, there isn’t much to see here.

Special features include: “Around the World: Building the Squads”; “A New Routine”; “The Look of Bring It On: Worldwide”; and gag reel. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Broken Mile (Blu-ray)



A drug addict named Shaun (Francesco Filice) awakens to find the girl he is with is dead and must rush to escape the consequences. Along the way, he seeks the help of his ex-girlfriend, Amy (Caleigh Le Grand), while dodging a mysterious figure (Patrick McFadden) who has started chasing him around the city with a gun.

One of the most noteworthy aspects of the film is it’s presented as one continuous take, appearing to never cut away from the action. From the moment Shaun wakes up, the camera is always with at least one of the characters as they progress through the narrative. It’s quite an impressive feat considering the number of location changes and nearly continuous movement of the characters. The other remarkable element of the story is it unfolds in real-time with the increasing intensity of a ticking-clock narrative even though there is no time limit. As the characters rush across town to each other or try to evade the gun-toting figure, the urgency of their situation and the need to find a non-bloody solution seems to become ever more important — not to mention there’s still a dead body requiring attention.

Special features include: commentary by director Justin McConnell; actor commentary; behind-the-scenes featurette; Q&A at Canadian Film Fest 2017; full rehearsal take; photo gallery; and trailer. (Indiecan)

Dean (DVD)


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Following a life-shaking event, Dean (Demetri Martin), a New York illustrator, hops a transcontinental flight hoping to figure out his increasingly crazy world. While in Los Angeles, Dean unexpectedly discovers romance, hope, inspiration, and the importance of family.

While the goal is to portray grief and its effects on the father-son relationship at the centre of the film, it feels too self-indulgent. The main character uses his grief as an excuse to be selfish, not considering how difficult things are for his father (Kevin Kline) who inherently loved his mother for longer. Instead, Dean leaves his dad alone to handle a difficult transition then blames him for not involving him more. In effect, Dean is not very likeable or easy with which to sympathize. This could have been a much more effective film if Dean didn’t runaway and then delay his return to chase after a girl that only appears somewhat interested in him.

Special features include: making-of featurette; “Drawing on Film: Stories About Dean”; and Q&A with Demetri Martin and Rory Scovel. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

Elementary: The Fifth Season (DVD)


Paramount Home Media Distribution

The erratic, unpredictable and intellectually incomparable detective Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) cracks case after case for the NYPD with the help of his ever-reliable partner Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu). The balance of this time-tested team shifts as Holmes and Watson face difficult personal choices and impossible crimes. From a murderous drug gang to a rogue intelligence agency, the threats have never been starker. And from snake venom-laced meals to invisible gunshots to a superbug in New York’s water supply, the methods have never been stranger.

This season includes a lot of unusual, covert crimes involving poison and other difficult-to-detect crimes. However, as challenging as the cases are, they don’t compare to the personal issues the duo must handle throughout the season. Joan’s relationship with an ex-gang member gets increasingly complicated as he repeatedly finds himself at the centre of several crimes. In addition, Sherlock’s former partner arrives from London to warn him of a potential assassination attempt, which leads to a much larger discovery and greater danger. The end of the season is very emotional as the characters deal with several personal tragedies, but the cliff-hanger revolving around Sherlock’s health is definitely a reason to tune in.

Special features include: deleted scenes; “For the Hundredth Time”; “Flashbacks”; “The Fifth Elementary”; “Reasoning Backwards”; and gag reel. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)

Inconceivable (Blu-ray & Digital copy)


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

A family (Gina Gershon and Nicolas Cage) befriends a struggling single mother (Nicky Whelan) and invites her into their home to be their nanny, and — eventually — their surrogate mother. But soon, strange behaviour begins to surface and they realize that things are not what they seem, and that the woman they’ve entrusted their lives to may have other intentions.

This film begins as a classic Single White Female thriller in which there’s clearly something odd about the mother’s new friend — the way she looks at the family and subtly ingratiates herself into their lives is just a little too easy. On the other hand, the fact that she could be dangerous is revealed with much less subtlety. From that moment she becomes increasingly aggressive towards her maternal rival, vying for the spot of No. 1 mom in a near perfect family. Cage is present, but this film isn’t about him; it centres on the eventual battle for supremacy to be the house’s matriarch. It’s a surprisingly decent thriller with enough twists and talented actors to keep the audience engaged.

Special features include: commentary by filmmaker Jonathan Baker; deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes featurette; and cast and crew interviews. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

Killing Hasselhoff (DVD)


Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

What started out as a regular week quickly turns into the worst few days of his life when Chris (Ken Jeong), a struggling nightclub owner, fails to pay back a loan shark and decides the only way to get the money is to kill his pick in the annual “Who Will Die This Year” celebrity death pool: David Hasselhoff. Aided by his friends Fish (Rhys Darby) and Tommy (Jim Jefferies), Chris desperately tries everything he can to off the master of slow-motion running and claim the jackpot. But the task is not as easy as he thought, especially when your target is The Hoff.

This title tells viewers a lot about the movie in that Hasselhoff is featured in the picture and it’s going to revolve around a ridiculous plot to assassinate him. It’s become clear in recent years that The Hoff has accepted and even embraced the strange popularity he retains in the cultural zeitgeist; more importantly, he’s demonstrated he’s willing to poke fun at that same image. The film is otherwise unremarkable, save for Hasselhoff’s amusing portrayal of an exaggerated version of himself that still likes to dress up as Michael Knight and take KIT out for a spin. Jeong is believable as the desperate would-be killer, but it’s just not enough.

Special features include: deleted scenes. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

The Lion King: The Circle of Life edition (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)


Disney Home Entertainment

Simba is a feisty lion cub who cannot wait to be king, as he searches for his destiny in the great “Circle of Life.”

More than 20 years and several spinoffs after its initial release, this film remains one of Disney’s most popular animated pictures. Characters, such as Simba, Timon and Pumba, are still beloved, while Scar and the hyenas are memorable villains. In addition to inspiring countless adorable merchandise and a Broadway musical, the movie can be watched repeatedly due to its entertaining narrative and catchy soundtrack — after all, “Hakuna Matata” is practically a household phrase now. Simba is very spirited, which keeps things interesting for those attempting to keep him out of trouble. Conversely, Elton John has a hand in teaching the young cub about the “Circle of Life.” Going behind the scenes in the bonus features adds another dimension to the already cherished film.

Special features include: commentary by producer Don Hahn and co-directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff; “Visualizing a Villain”; “The Recording Sessions”; “Nathan and Matthew: The Extended Lion King Conversation”; “Inside the Story Room”; sing-along version of the film; five galleries. (Disney Home Entertainment)

The Love of a Woman (Blu-ray & DVD)


Arrow Academy

Marie (Micheline Presle), a young doctor, arrives on the island of Ushant to replace its retiring physician. She experiences prejudice from the mostly male population, but also love in the form of engineer André (Massimo Girotti).

Female professionals, regardless of their position or training, have generally had a difficult time proving themselves. Marie is especially put out since the blue-collar community’s notions of a woman’s place in society does not include handling a stethoscope or scalpel. Perhaps ahead of its time (1953), the film demonstrates the choice women were expected to make between a career and family. Even though Marie and André love each other, their ideals are too different: she’s a modern woman who wants to work and be a wife and mother, while Jack believes once married a woman should dedicate her life to her husband and children. What’s fascinating is he understands he shouldn’t ask this of her, but he can’t help himself. This is a very enjoyable, early feminist narrative from director Jean Grémillon.

Special features include: “In Search of Jean Grémillon”; illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Ginette Vincendeau; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio. (Arrow Academy)

Ronin (Blu-ray)


Arrow Video

On a rain-swept night in Paris, an international crack team of professional thieves assembles, summoned by a shady crime syndicate fronted by the enigmatic Deirdre (Natascha McElhone). Their mission: to steal a heavily guarded briefcase from armed mobsters, its contents undisclosed. But what begins as a routine heist soon spirals into chaos, with the group beset by a series of double-crosses and constantly shifting allegiances, and it falls to world-weary former CIA strategist Sam (Robert De Niro) and laconic Frenchman Vincent (Jean Reno) to hold the mission together.

This is undoubtedly one of De Niro’s most engaging prolific films. With so many players interested in the mystery contents of the briefcase, it’s no surprise the narrative is filled with so many twists and betrayals. Moreover, it plays on international rivalries between Russia and Ireland as both vie for possession of the case by any means necessary. Nothing seems to go as planned, whether during the minutely detailed heist or a simple supply transaction, which makes for a gripping couple of hours of gunfights and chases. Of course the potentially romantic relationship between Sam and Deirdre complicates things. Reno’s silent but efficient partner in crime and potential lifelong friend is yet another standout in an excellent film.

Special features include: new 4K restoration of the film supervised and approved by director of photography Robert Fraisse; commentary by director John Frankenheimer; alternate ending; new video interview with director of photography Robert Fraisse; Paul Joyce documentary on Robert De Niro; “Ronin: Filming in the Fast Lane”; “Through the Lens”; “The Driving of Ronin”; “Natascha McElhone: An Actor’s Process”; “Composing the Ronin Score”; “In the Ronin Cutting Room”; Venice Film Festival interviews with Robert De Niro, Jean Reno and Natascha McElhone; theatrical trailer; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jacob Phillips. (Arrow Video)

Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Three (Blu-ray)


Disney Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm

Having established a secret base on Atollon, the Ghost crew, now led by a more powerful Ezra, strengthens the Rebel fleet by acquiring new resources and recruits eager to stand against the Empire. However, the Imperial efforts to eliminate the Rebellion are now being led by the coldly analytical Grand Admiral Thrawn, whose strategic, tactical and cultural insights make him a threat unlike any they have faced before. Ezra and Sabine must take on new roles and challenges as the Rebels prepare for their biggest mission yet — a direct assault on the Empire.

Season three has to deal with all the fallout from season two in a relatively short amount of time so that they can get to the business that occupies the current season. Ezra is still reeling from the events of a few months ago, blaming himself while Kanan has yet to figure out how to live with his impairment. The space they’re giving each other allows Ezra to try to find other less appropriate male friends and role models, like Hondo and Maul. Audiences will likely find the young Jedi Padawan’s actions quite frustrating this season as he repeatedly makes poor decisions even though he should know better by now; yet he continues to succumb to his youth and impulsiveness. The addition of Grand Admiral Thrawn heightens the narrative’s opposition, while Maul is busy trying to regain Ezra’s trust and allegiance to the Dark Side.

Special features include: five commentaries; “A Rebel Alliance”; “Rebels Recon”; “Return To Mandalore”; “Thrawn: A Legend Reborn”; “Apprentices to Outcasts: Kenobi And Maul”; and “The Original Rebel: Saw Gerrera Returns — Extended.” (Disney Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm)

The White Princess (DVD)


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

England is ostensibly united by the marriage of Elizabeth of York/Lizzie (Jodie Comer) and King Henry VII (Jacob Collins-Levy), but their personal and political rift runs deep and the divide between them threatens to tear the kingdom apart once again. The miniseries charts one of the most tumultuous times in British history from the point of view of the women waging the ongoing battle for the English throne.

As mentioned in the synopsis, this story is told almost entirely from the perspective of the women who seem to rule the kingdom from the sidelines. They put most of the major plans into motion, making sure everyone is maneuvered into the correct positions to maximize the likeliness of success. What’s shocking is the callousness they exhibit when either trying to protect their immediate families or further their future holdings. Henry’s mother is incredibly conniving, making the difficult decisions necessary to ensure he takes the throne and then keeps it. At first, Lizzy does what she must to ensure the survival of the Yorks; but before long, her definition of family changes and she becomes as ruthless as the mothers she despised. The narrative isn’t overly complicated, but it is fascinating.

There are no special features. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

The Zodiac Killer (Blu-ray & DVD)


MVD Visual

Directed by Tom Hanson, who had previously owned a chain of Pizza Man restaurants, the film was made to capture the real-life Zodiac Killer. That plan didn’t work. Instead, we got the most outrageous and compelling “tabloid horror” vortex in the history of planet Earth. And beyond. During theatrical screenings, Hanson constructed in-theater “traps” to lure the killer from hiding. These included the use of an ice cream freezer filled with rent-a-cops and a raffle with a motorcycle as a prize.

This film’s background is far more interesting than the picture itself as there isn’t much of a narrative. Instead, the movie depicts the killer’s many victims shortly before they’re murdered. It follows the sequence of events, but doesn’t appear to have a specific timeline as all the homicides run together. According to the bonus features, the film contained details the police never released to the public in an attempt to get the Zodiac Killer’s attention and draw him to the theatre where police lay in wait. Unfortunatel,y their elaborate plan didn’t work and the killer was never caught.

Special features include: commentary with director Tom Hanson and producer Manny Nedwick; interview with director Tom Hanson and actor Manny Nedwick; liner notes and director Tom Hanson interview by Chris Poggiali of Temple of Schlock; bonus movie: Another Son of Sam; tabloid-horror trailers from the AGFA archive; and reversible cover art. (MVD Visual)

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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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