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Review: This week’s releases features men just trying to stay ahead (Includes first-hand account)

Aladdin (2019) (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)


Disney Home Entertainment

Aladdin (Mena Massoud), a kind-hearted street urchin, and Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), a power-hungry Grand Vizier, vie for a magic lamp that contains a genie (Will Smith) with the power to make their deepest wishes come true.

This is a rather faithful adaptation of the animated feature with at least one update to make it more relatable to a contemporary audience. Perhaps having taken the hint from reviews of their first foray into the live action adaptation, most of the original songs are incorporated into this picture with the same fervour as the original. One of the most noticeable and notable tweaks to the narrative is Jasmine’s desire to succeed her father as sultan in order to help the city’s people and restore it to the glory of her mother’s days. This, in turn, results in an additional song, “Speechless,” which expresses the princess’ desire to be heard and not be stifled. The most concerning thing going into the adaptation was casting Smith in the role of Genie. Luckily, they find ways to differentiate the role as much as the narrative allows.

Special features include: deleted scenes; deleted song, “Desert Moon”; behind-the-scenes featurettes; and bloopers. (Disney Home Entertainment)

Aladdin (1992) (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)


Disney Home Entertainment

With the help of a hysterically funny, shape-shifting, 10,000-year-old Genie (Robin Williams), street-smart commoner Aladdin (Scott Weinger) and clever, confident Princess Jasmine (Linda Larkin) join forces against the evil sorcerer Jafar (Jonathan Freeman) to put an end to his plans to take over the kingdom.

More than 20 years after its original release, this animated feature still holds a special place in people’s hearts – and it’s also found its place amongst a new generation of viewers who enjoy the same magic that delighted their parents. The G-rated comedy has yet to get old, particularly the Genie’s clever wisecracking and big heart. On the same note, Iago (Gilbert Gottfried) is as annoying as ever. In addition, the songs of the movie remain timeless and forever catchy as the lyrics come streaming back no matter how long ago your last viewing of the film… after all, who wouldn’t love to be serenaded on a magic carpet while flying above a beautiful city.

Special features include: filmmaker commentary; alternate ending; “Aladdin on Aladdin”; “Let’s Not Be Too Hasty”; “The Genie Outtakes”; “Genie 101”; “Ron & John: You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me”; “Aladdin: Creating Broadway Magic”; “Unboxing Aladdin”; and “Disney Song Selection.” (Disney Animated Studios)

Daybreakers (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is a researcher in the year 2019, when an unknown plague has transformed the world’s population into vampires. As the human population nears extinction, vampires must capture and farm every remaining human, or find a blood substitute before time runs out. However, a covert group of vampires makes a remarkable discovery, one which has the power to save the human race.

The social commentary of a population starving to death while the more affluent enjoys a sustainable food source is obvious. However, the dynamics of the relationships between various characters is one of the more interesting elements of the film. For example, Dalton abhors killing humans to survive, but his brother is a member of the government army that hunts humans to replenish the food supply. Hawke has always portrayed the tortured soul well and here there is no difference. Willem Dafoe plays the key to finding a cure and has some of the best lines in the film, which he delivers with impeccable timing. Sam Neill is the head of the blood corporation, having stayed at the top with ruthless tactics and his complete abandonment of humanity. There are also fun elements, such as adding blood to your coffee at the local coffee shop or the modifications to cars so vampires don’t have to give up driving in the day.

Special features include: commentary by co-directors Peter and Michael Spierig and creature designer Steve Boyle; making-of featurette; Spierig brothers short film, “The Big Picture”; and theatrical trailer. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Super assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) has a $14 million price tag on his head after killing a member of the High Table, the shadowy international assassins’ guild. Now excommunicado, and with an army of the world’s most ruthless hit men and women on his trail, John must find a way to survive.

Within the first 15 minutes of this movie, John’s killed someone with a book, a customized antique gun and a horse. But what’s left for the man who’s used every weapon and numerous ordinary objects to dispatch his opponents? Apparently the answer is not much, so they give him partners: Sofia (Halle Berry) and her two attack-trained German Shepherds. As dogs have always played a critical role in the narratives, these furry killers are a welcome addition. Where this movie lacks finesse, it replaces it with brute force. There’s definitely still a thrill to watching John escape only slightly scathed even though he was exhausted and/or significantly outnumbered. His dexterity when reloading a gun is captivating and his aim is impeccable. But the most interesting action sequences bookend the picture. Once the bounty hunters begin their assault, the rapid fire action is spellbinding. From a library to the streets of Chinatown and from a horse to a motorcycle, John must adapt quickly and dispatch his pursuers with whatever is at hand in order to stay alive.

Special features include: “Parabellum: Legacy of the High Table”; “Excommunicado”; “Check Your Sights”; “Saddle Up Wick”; “Bikes, Blades, Bridges, and Bits”; “Continental in the Desert”; “Dog Fu”; “House of Transparency”; “Shot by Shot”; theatrical trailers; and “John Wick Hex” behind-the-scenes featurette and game trailer. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

Lock Up (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

“This is hell and I’m going to give you a guided tour!” With these chilling words, the warden (Donald Sutherland) welcomes Frank Leone (Sylvester Stallone) to Gateway Prison, a nightmare jail where every minute is hard time. The warden wants vengeance for the past; Leone wants only to survive the present.

Stallone played a con long before he was breaking out of prisons professionally in Escape Plan. Frank was comfortable with weekend sojourns, a friendly repartee with the guards and only a few more weeks before he got out. Then he’s suddenly thrown into a penitentiary where both the guards and the inmates do the warden’s bidding, which includes punishing Frank emotionally and physically whenever they get the chance. Anyone close to Frank is also made a target, inside and outside the prison walls as the warden tries to push Frank over the edge. This is a fairly brutal film with Sutherland playing the sadistic prison head with subtle fury, which enhances any of Stallone’s wins or losses under his authority.

Special features include: making-of featurette; behind-the-scenes featurette; interviews with Sylvester Stallone, Donald Southerland, Sonny Landham and John Amos; and original trailer. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

Santana: Live at US Festival (Blu-ray)


Shout Factory

On Labor Day Weekend in 1982, Santana took the stage at US Festival in San Bernardino, California, and gave the audience a thrilling performance.

This is not just a concert movie, though it does capture the incredible feeling of performing at this festival co-founded by Steve Wozniak meant to extend a message of community and encourage the combination of technology and rock music. However, in between performing hits such as “Black Magic Woman,” “Gypsy Queen,” and “Oye Como Va,” as well as sharing the stage with special guest Herbie Hancock for “Incident at Neshabur,” the film includes interviews with Carlos Santana. In between each song, the movie cuts to the reflective guitar player who talks about the importance of the festival, his career, musical influences, signature sound, and his theory of how music should be played and felt. Combined, these elements make for a pretty uplifting and inspiring film.

Special features include: “Santana Reflects on his Career”; “Explaining His Signature Sound”; “The Theory of Santana’s Music”; and “Santana Interview Outtake.” (Shout Factory)

Scars of Dracula (Blu-ray)


Scream Factory

Dracula (Christopher Lee) is back, bringing unspeakable horrors upon a local village that defies his evil reign. But when a young man and his luscious girlfriend unwittingly visit the Count’s castle, they find themselves trapped in a face-to-face frenzy of bloodthirsty vixens, religious blasphemy and sadistic henchmen. The prince of darkness has returned like never before, but will his horrific mark remain forever?

This is a Dracula movie that somewhat parallels Bram Stoker’s famous tale, while not offering much that’s different from the bloodsucker’s many other ventures. It includes the stereotypical elements, such as a large castle, frightened villagers, a loyal servant and a beautiful, unavailable young woman. The vampire is also repelled by crucifixes and can turn into a bat at will. When the couple doesn’t return, another pair comes to look for them… at their own peril. As each movie seems to look for a new way to kill Dracula, the method selected for this picture is somewhat inventive and flashy, but also clumsy and less probable than others.

Special features include: commentary by star Christopher Lee and director Roy Ward Baker, moderated by Hammer Film historian Marcus Hearn; commentary by filmmaker/film historian Constantine Nasr and film historian Randall Larson; “Blood Rites: Inside Scars of Dracula”; still gallery; and theatrical trailers. (Scream Factory)

SEAL Team: Season Two (DVD)


Paramount Home Media Distribution

Season 2 picks up months after the team has returned home from deployment. Ray (Neil Brown Jr.) is struggling with being on the outs with Jason (David Boreanaz) and Bravo Team as they head to the Gulf of Guinea to rescue American hostages after an oil platform has been over taken by armed militants.

There is a lot of turmoil in the first few episodes of this season. Jason is finding it very difficult to trust Ray after he jeopardized the safety of the team — especially while the new recruits are holding up their end well. However, none of this matters when Jason is struck by personal tragedy, which rocks his world more than war ever could. It causes him to evaluate his position on the team and some of the team to question his suitability to return. Deaths and injuries are all part of the job, and therefore equally unavoidable in the series. But the narrative also takes the opportunity to address the difficulties veterans face; particularly those with medical issues in a system designed to cut costs, as well as PTSD and suicide. Even though the show is returning for a third season, the finale has a sense of finality about it even if everyone isn’t in the best possible place.

Special features include: deleted and extended scenes; “The Only Easy Day was Yesterday: SEAL Team season 2”; “Operation: Puerto Rico”; “Nothing Fake About It: The Props”; and gag reel. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)

True Believer (Blu-ray)


Mill Creek Entertainment

Eddie Dodd (James Woods) was once an acclaimed civil rights attorney of the ’60s and is now an embittered cynic who makes a living defending drug-dealing low-lifes. Dodd’s passion for justice is rekindled when an idealistic young associate, Roger Baron (Robert Downey, Jr.), urges him to re-open an eight-year-old murder case involving a young prisoner serving life in Sing Sing for a gang initiation killing. Dodd’s frenetic search for the truth takes him through a harrowing maze of unscrupulous prosecutors, white supremacist hate groups and corrupt cops. But is he willing to put his life on the line in defense of his beliefs?

This is one of those cases wrapped up in a conspiracy so high up and with so many players, uncovering it is like opening up an endless set of nesting dolls. Eddie gave up on saving people long time ago, so now he employs the same arguments regarding civil rights violations that he used the help activists to get drug dealers off. But Roger sees something in this case and believes the convict is innocent. Their investigations reveals multiple inconsistencies and unreliable witnesses, which points to a cover-up at the highest ranks — but to protect who? The movie is a bit drawn out, but each puzzle piece triggers a new avenue to check out and consequently keeps the audience engaged, not to mention the on-point performances by Woods and Downey, Jr.

There are no special features. (Mill Creek 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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