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Review: These releases are about embracing one’s inner strength

This week’s releases include a couple of animated films about finding one’s self, & a martial arts cult classic

A scene from 'Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken' courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
A scene from 'Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken' courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

This week’s releases include a couple of animated films about finding one’s self, a martial arts cult classic and a violent cop movie.

Bad City on Blu-ray
Well Go USA Entertainment

Bad City (Blu-ray)
Long plagued by poverty and crime, Kaiko City has been torn apart by rampant corruption and growing violence between the local Yakuza faction and a notorious Korean crime boss. But when a mafia-connected businessman runs for mayor and begins systematically eliminating his opponents, a former police captain (Hitoshi Ozawa) imprisoned for a brutal murder is released in a final desperate effort to reclaim the city.

This is a violent and pessimistic action film in which the only way for the good guys to win is to sink to the level of the bad guys. One of the detectives assigned to the case is a woman who is a bit green and therefore treated as an incompetent intruder until she’s able to prove herself. The old captain is brutal in his methods, which seems like the only way they’re going to get to the bottom of what is happening — though even his squad questions his approach sometimes, particularly in regards to his callousness about their own team. While the ending is not surprising, it does culminate in one ultimate, bloody battle of cops vs. Yakuza, in which the winner gets the city.

There are no special features. (Well Go USA Entertainment)

Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon steelbook on 4K
Sony Pictures Entertainment

Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon steelbook (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Martial arts student Leroy Green (Taimak) is on a quest to obtain the elusive all-powerful force known as “The Glow.” Along the way, he must battle the evil, self-proclaimed “Shogun of Harlem” — a kung fu warrior also known as Sho’nuff (Julius J. Carry III) — and rescue a beautiful singer (Prince’s protégée, Vanity) from an obsessed record promoter.

This is a classic martial arts picture with a cult following for its over-the-top action, mediocre acting from its star and an infamous piece of dialogue repeated throughout the picture. Leroy is a naïve young man who’s devoted his life to his master and martial arts, which means he doesn’t fit in anywhere else — a fact his younger brother reminds him of constantly. However, Leroy’s life is changed when he falls for the singer he rescues, causing him to have unfamiliar feelings and a new reason to fight. Meanwhile, Sho’nuff publicly challenges the young man for kung fu supremacy, resulting in an epic, last-act battle that finishes with glowing fists and untapped inner strength.

Special features include: fan commentary with comedian Amber Ruffin and author Lacey Lamar; commentary with director Michael Schultz; “Return of the Dragon”; and theatrical trailer. (Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Lonely Castle in the Mirror on Blu-ray
GKIDS and Shout! Factory

Lonely Castle in the Mirror (Blu-ray)
Shy outcast Kokoro has been avoiding school for weeks when she discovers a portal in her bedroom mirror. She reaches through and finds herself transported to an enchanted castle where she is joined by six other students. When a girl in a wolf mask explains they have been invited to play a game, the teens must work together to uncover the mysterious connection that unites them. However, anyone who breaks the rules will be eaten by a wolf.

This is a fantasy narrative for kids who do not fit in at school. But the castle proves to be the perfect hideout for these outcasts, who also discover they’re not alone in their suffering. It seems like a dream come true, being able to escape to a world with none of the real world’s negatives, spending days playing games and hanging out with other kids who aren’t waiting to judge or criticize. Of course, there’s the threat of being eaten by a wolf, but that’s only if the rules are broken, of which there aren’t many and they’re not difficult to follow. Audiences will notice clues that indicate some of teens’ origins, but the purpose of their assembly is not immediately evident, nor something easily guessed.

Special features include: art gallery; and trailers. (GKIDS and Shout! Factory)

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken on Blu-ray
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray & DVD)
Ruby (Lana Condor), a shy teenager discovers she’s part of a legendary royal lineage of mythical sea krakens and that her destiny, in the depths of the oceans, is bigger than she ever dreamed. Learning to be an all-powerful sea creature while hiding among humans is hard enough for Ruby, but to make matters worse, her super popular new bestie, Chelsea (Annie Murphy), is secretly a mermaid! Mermaids have been battling the Krakens for eons to rule the ocean, but Chelsea has come to land to finally put an end to that conflict. However, when Chelsea double-crosses her, Ruby will ultimately need to embrace who she is and GO BIG to protect those she loves most.

This is a fun, animated film with an excellent voice cast, including Toni Collette, Jane Fonda, Colman Domingo, Will Forte and Sam Richardson. Ruby is a pretty normal teenager, outside of having to conceal some physical features and “stay out of the ocean” in a waterfront town. However, fate has other ideas, causing Ruby to reveal her powerful — and royal — kraken lineage. There was more than one reason to keep her true nature secret, though now that it’s out, she may be the only one who can save her family and friends. The vibrant colour palette also plays a significant role in elevating the narrative and adding an extra layer of appeal to the picture.

Special features include: commentary by director Kirk DeMicco, co-director Faryn Pearl, producer Kelly Cooney Cilella, head of character animation Carlos Fernandez Puertolas and head of cinematography, layout Jon Gutman; deleted scenes; “The Kraken: Myth or Monster”; “Meet the Gillman Cast”; “The Kraken Krew: Meet the humans Behind the Gillmans”; “Oceanside Drawing Guide”; “Make Your Own Aquarium”; “Squad Solidarity: Adventures in ADR”; “Prom Stories”; and “Super Sea Girl Besties.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

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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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