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Review: This week’s releases are about righting one’s mistakes (Includes first-hand account)

Are You Afraid of the Dark? (2019) (DVD)


Paramount Home Entertainment

Re-imagined for a new generation, this is Nickelodeon’s all-new version of the ‘90’s kids’ cult classic. The three-part limited series follows members of an entirely new Midnight Society, who tell a terrifying tale of the Carnival of Doom and its evil ringmaster, Mr. Top Hat, only to witness the shocking story come frightfully to life and prepare for an adventure beyond their wildest nightmares.

Where the older TV series unfolded almost entirely around the campfire, this one takes audiences into the storytellers’ lives beyond the forest. It begins in their school’s hallways and later takes them into the horrors of what was supposed to be nothing but a fiction inspired by a recurring nightmare. This is a new format for fans of the original series, but it’s better to think of this as a new show based on the ‘90s version rather than a continuation or remake of it. It’d be great to see this series revived in its former episodic format, but until that time comes, this is a nice callback to the beloved show that kept young viewers chillingly entertained.

There are no special features. (Paramount Home Entertainment)

Dead Still (DVD)



Memorial photographer Brock Blennerhasset (Michael Smiley) makes a living out of photographing the dead in Victorian Ireland. When a series of murders threatens to sully Blennerhasset’s reputation, a tenacious detective drags him into an investigation of Dublin’s criminal underbelly.

The concept for this series is somewhat original as it’s based on the lesser known Victorian practice of photographing the dead. Since people weren’t able to regularly take their own photos, they used these post-death images to preserve the memories of their loved ones — though some may be put off by the idea of posing with a corpse. Surprisingly, there is more than one scandal to contend with, including a potential murder made to look like a suicide and pornographic pictures. Moreover, Brock’s new assistant is a bit more than rough around the edges and his niece is enjoying her newfound freedom by running with the wrong crowd. The conclusion is a bit contrived, but the series touches on some interesting topics.

Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette. (Acorn)

The King of Staten Island (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)


Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Scott (Pete Davidson) has been a case of arrested development since his firefighter father died when he was seven. He’s now reached his mid-20s, achieving little and still chasing a dream of becoming a tattoo artist that seems far out of reach. As his ambitious younger sister (Maude Apatow) heads off to college, Scott is still living with his exhausted ER nurse mother (Marisa Tomei), spending his days smoking weed, hanging with his buddies and secretly hooking up with his childhood friend Kelsey (Bel Powley). When his mother starts dating a loudmouth firefighter (Bill Burr), it sets off a chain of events that will force Scott to grapple with his grief and take his first tentative steps towards moving forward in life.

It can be difficult to become invested in these stories about the man-child because their actions are often so ridiculous, it’s hard to believe no one does more to intervene. Scott’s friends are not the brightest bunch, but at least one of them realizes that tattooing a random child is not the best idea… though it’s allowed to happen anyway. Scott’s mother is incredibly tolerant, which only encourages him and contributes to the situation. He doesn’t accept criticism well and especially doesn’t like when people tell him to grow up, but it turns out he’s not entirely incapable of doing so. There are aspects of the picture that are touching, but overall, it’s a not very engaging coming-of-age story years too late.

Special features include: commentary with director/co-writer Judd Apatow and actor/co-writer Pete Davidson; deleted scenes; alternate endings; “The Kid from Staten Island”; “Judd Apatow’s Production Diaries”; “You’re Not My Dad: Working with Bill Burr”; “Margie Knows Best: Working with Marisa Tomei”; “Friends with Benefits: Working with Bel Powley”; “Sibling Rivalry: Working with Maude Apatow”; “Best Friends: Working with Ricky, Moises, & Lou”; “Papa: Working with Steve Buscemi”; “Friends of Firefighters Stand-Up Benefit”; “Scott Davidson Tribute”; “Who is Pete Davidson?”; “The Firehouse”; “Pete’s Casting Recs”; “Pete’s ‘Poppy’ (Grandpa)”; video calls; line-o-rama; and gag reel. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

SEAL Team: Season Three (DVD)


Paramount Home Entertainment

This season begins with Jason Hayes (David Boreanaz) leading the team on a mission in Serbia, but they question Clay’s (Max Thieriot) readiness after his injuries last year. Also, Davis (Toni Tucks) will struggle with the pressure of her new job as the team’s Intel Officer.

At the start of the season, Jason is struggling with PTSD and not hiding it well. The team is assigned someone to look after their wellness and Jason, of course, scoffs at the whole idea of someone telling him how to live his life — until it affects the safety of his team. In the meantime, Clay appears to be experiencing middle child syndrome when the team takes on a new rookie. There are a few two-episode story arcs this year as the team is sent on more complex missions and the focus extends to both sides of the operation: the team on the ground and Davis back at base. Notably, some scenes from the early episodes were actually shot on-location in Serbia.

Special features include: “Welcome to Serbia”; “Shifting Gears”; “Lights, Camera, Execute”; and “Worlds Apart.” (Paramount Home Entertainment)

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray)


Scream Factory

To keep from being eaten by a modern-day witch (Deborah Harry), a young paperboy (Matthew Lawrence) weaves three twisted stories to distract her. In “Lot 249,” a vengeful college student (Steve Buscemi) resuscitates an evil mummy to teach unsuspecting student bodies (Julianne Moore and Christian Slater) a lesson in terror. Then, “The Cat from Hell” is a furry black feline who cannot be killed — he may have nine lives, but those who cross his path are not so lucky. Finally, in “Lover’s Vow,” a stone gargoyle comes to life… to commit murder.

This is a classic horror anthology that’s actually a film adaptation of a TV series from the ‘80s. Though the shorts are all directed by John Harrison, they’re scripted by classic genre writers such as Stephen King, George A. Romero and Arthur Conan Doyle. The framing story is a modern-take on the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale in which the witch appears to live in a suburban neighborhood. The story of the evil mummy is a nice starter as it’s creepy, but the petty cruelty of human nature plays an equal role. The tale of the malevolent feline is more vicious and, at times, gorier, upping the ante in the storytelling. But the best does come last with the story of a struggling artist whose life depends on him keeping a promise. The stories are brief but good, making this an enduring cult favourite.

Special features include: commentary by co-producer David R. Kappes; commentary with director John Harrison and co-screenwriter George A. Romero; “Tales Behind the Darkside: The Making of Four Ghoulish Fables”; behind-the-scenes featurette; galleries; radio and TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)

Toni (Blu-ray)


Criterion Collection

Based on a true story and set in a community of immigrants living, working, and loving on the margins of French society, the film follows the Italian migrant, Toni (Charles Blavette), whose tempestuous affairs with two women — the faithful Marie (Jenny Hélia) and the flirtatious Josefa (Celia Montalván) — unleash a wave of tragedy.

In 1934, writer/director Jean Renoir sparked the Italian neorealism movement by moving from the soundstage to a small village in the South of France. The rural setting provides a beautiful, natural backdrop, while a number of locals were also employed as non-professional actors. These elements combined with a desire to capture everyday life in the country result in an authentic portrayal of social rituals and relationships. Though Toni’s love triangle doesn’t say much about anyone involved. Marie tolerates his philandering because she’s convinced her love for him will triumph. Unfortunately, Toni takes the same approach to his pursuit of Josefa in spite of Marie’s dedication. And finally, Josefa’s indecision leads to a situation in which no one can be happy. The archive material featuring Renoir alongside the contemporary examinations of the film are quite enlightening, particularly the essay discussing the making of the movie.

Special features include: commentary from 2006 featuring critics Kent Jones and Phillip Lopate; introduction by director Jean Renoir from 1961; episode of Cinéastes de notre temps from 1967 on Renoir; new video essay about the making of Toni by film scholar Christopher Faulkner; and an essay by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau. (The Criterion Collection)

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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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