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Review: This week’s releases finds love in many forms (Includes first-hand account)

Adopt a Highway (Blu-ray)


RLJE Films

Russ Millings (Ethan Hawke) was just released from prison after serving 21 years for a 3rd strike conviction for possessing an ounce of marijuana. As he tries to adapt to a world he doesn’t recognize — including trying to learn how to use the internet — he finds an abandoned baby in a dumpster behind the fast food restaurant where he works as a dishwasher. Unsure of what to do, and caught between impulses of kindness and panic, Russ soon realizes this could be his chance at redemption.

Russ is a fish out of water. Having spent most of his adult life in jail, he emerges into a world he doesn’t understand. He follows his parole to a tee, finds a job, gets a long-term room at a motel and does his best to reconnect the world. Unsure of how to send his reports via email, he befriends a guy at an internet café that introduces him to the World Wide Web. However, the baby is the first person he meets that doesn’t judge him and actually needs him. The way Russ dotes on her is sweet, though incredibly awkward since he seems to know little to nothing about caring for an infant. The story doesn’t necessarily go where one expects, but it does deliver an uplifting ending.

There are no special features. (RLJE Films)

The Far Country (Blu-ray)


Arrow Academy

Jeff Webster (James Stewart) and his sidekick Ben Tatum (Walter Brennen) are two stoic adventurers driving cattle to market from Wyoming to Canada. They come to logger heads with a corrupt judge (John McIntire) and his henchmen. A sultry saloon keeper (Ruth Romain) falls for Webster, teaming up with him to take on the errant lawman.

Though it’s not what most people know him for, Stewart made more than a dozen Westerns over the course of his career. This is one of his more critically acclaimed ventures in the genre. Webster generally puts himself first and occasionally Ben, so when people need his help he generally continues on in the opposite direction. Similarly, although he’s supposed to be partnered with the saloon keeper, he puts his own interests ahead of hers. It’s not until he suffers a significant loss that he can see how this strategy can be detrimental. Seeing Stewart in an antihero role is a strange experience, but his apathetic performance is still excellent. The film was shot in northern Canada across the snow-swept mountains, which are even more vivid in high definition.

Special features include: commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin; “American Frontiers: Anthony Mann at Universal”; “Mann of the West”; image gallery; trailer; limited edition booklet with new writing on the film by Philip Kemp and original reviews; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys. (Arrow Academy)

Flowers in the Attic (Blu-ray)


Arrow Video

When her husband dies in a tragic accident, widow Corrine Dollanganger (Victoria Tennant) takes her four children to the ancestral family home she fled before they were born. Locked away in the attic by their tyrannical grandmother (Louise Fletcher), it falls to older brother and sister Chris (Jeb Stuart Adams) and Cathy (Kristy Swanson) to care for their two younger siblings. But with their mother growing increasingly distant and erratic, and a mysterious sickness taking hold, will any of the Dollanganger children survive to escape the clutches of the house’s cruel matriarch?

Based on VC Andrews’ novel of the same name, the movie is the horrific tale of children abandoned and abused by their own mother. Corrine becomes very depressed after her husband’s death and neglects all of her duties so they’re forced to move to the childhood home she fled as soon as she could. From the moment they step through the door, the nightmare starts. The treatment the children receive is appalling and borders on sickening as Corrine’s mother terrorizes and sporadically tortures the kids. Abuse and incest are front and centre in Andrews’ book, but the latter is especially toned down in the film. As odd as it sounds, this creative choice was not positively received by fans at the film’s release, though the relationship is still very much implied.

Special features include: audio commentary by Kat Ellinger, author and editor-in-chief of Diabolique Magazine; original, studio-vetoed ending; revised ending with commentary by replacement director Tony Kayden; “Home Sweet Home: Filming Flowers in the Attic”; “Fear & Wonder: Designing Flowers in the Attic”; “The Devil’s Spawn: Playing Flowers in the Attic”; “Shattered Innocence: Composing Flowers in the Attic”; theatrical trailer; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Haunt Love. (Arrow Video)

Judy (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Thirty years after rising to global stardom in The Wizard of Oz, showbiz legend Judy Garland (Renée Zellweger) arrives in London to perform a five-week sold-out run at The Talk of the Town. While preparing for the shows, Garland battles with management, reminisces with friends and adoring fans, and embarks on a whirlwind romance with soon-to-be fifth husband Mickey Deans — all while bravely struggling to overcome intensifying anxiety and physical decline.

At 46, Judy was a chronic insomniac, pill addict and mostly functioning alcoholic with a failing voice, debilitating anxiety and depression. As a child actress, she worked non-stop 18-hour days, couldn’t sleep and didn’t have friends beyond fellow child actor, Mickey Rooney. Zellweger loses herself in this role, embodying Judy at her best and worst moments. For anyone familiar with the actress’ late career, there’s nothing revelatory in the narrative — but it’s still something to see a depiction of her in all her glory with the audience in the palm of her hands. On the other hand, watching an icon struggle to get through the day or be treated like a show horse is difficult at times. But the last five minutes of this film is a culmination of all the emotions up to that point and it’s so marvellously sad and exuberant that many will have trouble holding back the tears.

Special features include: making-of featurette; imagery gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

The Kill Team (Blu-ray & Digital copy)


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Based on a true story, the film follows Andrew Briggman (Nat Wolff), a young soldier in the US invasion of Afghanistan who witnesses other recruits killing innocent civilians under the direction of a sadistic leader, Sergeant Deeks (Alexander Skarsgård). Andrew considers reporting them to higher-ups, but the heavily armed, increasingly violent platoon becomes suspicious that someone in their ranks has turned on them — and Andrew begins to fear that he’ll be the next target.

This is the type of story in which no one looks good. Deeks is the worst kind of soldier that’s stopped seeing “the other” as human, and treats innocent and guilty alike. His horribleness is accentuated because he uses his position of power to corrupt the young men under his command, convincing them this approach to “peace” is acceptable; circumventing the law and the system is normal. Skarsgård plays the sergeant as a likeable guy who befriends and rewards his unit, but can turn on them just as quickly. This is a stark contrast to Briggman’s former commanding officer. Briggman is understandably scared as he may face repercussions for any accusations before any action is even taken against Deeks.

Special features include: commentary by writer/director Dan Krauss; deleted scenes; and making-of featurette. (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

Light of My Life (DVD & Digital copy)


Elevation Pictures

A parent (Casey Affleck) and his 11-year-old child (Anna Pniowsky) journey through the outskirts of society a decade after a pandemic has wiped out half the world’s population. As the father struggles to protect his child, their bond, and the character of humanity, is tested.

It becomes obvious early on that they’re in constant danger because of his daughter’s gender. He hides it as much as possible, but she’s reaching an age where her features are becoming more feminine and harder to conceal. The narrative follows them as they stay off the beaten path, camping and hiding in abandoned buildings. He teaches her survival skills and always ensures they have an escape plan, if required. However, his desire to protect her also puts her in danger as he refuses to leave her alone even when it would probably be safer. Though this is only a brief look at their lives when things are most difficult, it still establishes a constant threat and a dangerous atmosphere in contrast with the loving father-daughter relationship.

There are no special features. (Elevation Pictures)

RoboCop [Limited Edition] (Blu-ray)


Arrow Video

The film takes place in Detroit in the not-too-distant future. Heroic cop Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is gunned down in the line of duty, only to be resurrected as RoboCop — a cybernetic mix of spare human parts and Motor City steel, and the latest defense against crime designed by the all-powerful OCP Corporation. As RoboCop’s memories of his former life as Murphy resurface, only his ex-partner (Nancy Allen) stands beside him to fight against the vicious thugs responsible for his death, as well as a nefarious top-level OCP executive orchestrating the chaos from above.

With crime increasing in major cities, there was a desire to curb criminal activity and this film provided a creative solution to the problem. Fittingly set in Motor City where machines are built into the town’s foundation, flesh is melded with steel. While they may have refined the cybernetic aspect of their experiment, they definitely hadn’t perfected the brain-tinkering part of the project. Murphy’s situation is rather depressing as he didn’t volunteer for the procedure and knowing he can’t be with his family is torture, which Weller conveys with the right mix of robotic indifference and compassion. However, his modifications mean he can also solve any problem — with the goons that killed him and the company that made him. It’s a classic, ‘80s sci-fi movie that gets a nice polish with this release.

Special features include: director’s and theatrical cuts of the film; commentary by director Paul Verhoeven, executive producer Jon Davison and co-writer Ed Neumeier (originally recorded for the theatrical cut and re-edited in 2014 for the director’s cut); commentary by film historian Paul M. Sammon; commentary by fans Christopher Griffiths, Gary Smart and Eastwood Allen; deleted scenes; “The Future of Law Enforcement: Creating RoboCop”; “RoboTalk”; “Truth of Character”; “Casting Old Detroit”; “Connecting the Shots”; “Composing RoboCop”; “RoboProps”; “RoboCop: Creating a Legend”; 2012 Q&A with the filmmakers; “The Boardroom”; two isolated score tracks; two edited for TV scenes; six collector’s postcards; double-sided, fold-out poster; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork. (Arrow Video)

Twin Flower (DVD)


Film Movement

Sixteen-year-old Anna (Anastasiya Bogach) is on the run, escaping from a violent event so traumatic that she will no longer speak to anyone. Pursuing her is Manfredi (Aniello Arena), an obsessed human trafficker who employed her father. On the road she is rescued by Basim (Kallil Kone), a teenage orphan and illegal immigrant from the Ivory Coast, who also has been abused by life. Together the two adolescents embark on a perilous journey towards a new beginning, traveling through the deserted lands, woods, villages and landscapes of Sardinia.

This film is filled with mysteries, from Basim’s background and nightly excursions to what caused Anna to run away and stop speaking. There is very little dialogue in the film in general, as the characters spend a lot of time alone or in simple silence. In spite of Basim and Anna’s minimal communication, they form a strong bond based on a mutual need to survive and desire for companionship. However, they both endure terrible experiences at the hands of people trying to take advantage of their youth and vulnerability. Anna’s flashbacks slowly fill in the pieces of the puzzle, but in the meantime she lives day-by-day in fear of being found. Overall, it’s still a well-paced picture that sadly unfolds beneath an inescapable dark cloud.

Special features include: “Cerdita,” a short film. (Film Movement)

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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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