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Review: This week’s releases confront the unthinkable

This week’s releases include a spectacle; an effective reimagining; a comedic expression of family; and more

A scene from 'Nope'
A scene from 'Nope' courtesy of Universal Pictures
A scene from 'Nope' courtesy of Universal Pictures

This week’s releases include an attention-grabbing spectacle; an effective reimagining; a comedic expression of family; a new case for the Scooby gang; an alien’s anniversary; and two very different horror pictures.

The Bat on Blu-ray
Cinedigm & The Film Detective

The Bat (Blu-ray)
A down­trodden country estate becomes the site of a horrific murder.

This is a classic murder mystery, featuring Vincent Price. The house is so large, it’s filled with countless passages that make getting lost, hiding or escaping very easy. Women alone at night that hear an intruder in their home is a scenario that stands the test of time, and lends itself well to this narrative as the police expectedly question the validity of their claims, while also repeatedly missing the suspect. As the narrative progresses, more is revealed, which complicates matters but makes for an interesting story.

There are no special features. (Cinedigm & The Film Detective)

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial on 4K
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Elliott (Henry Thomas), Gertie (Drew Barrymore) and Michael (Robert MacNaughton) come together to help E.T. find his way home.

Forty years after writer/director Steven Spielberg introduced audiences to a tiny, harmless alien and the three children who would help him find his way home, the film is still a moving, classic piece of cinema. By today’s standards, the practical effects used to create E.T. appear hokey, but that’s part of its appeal. E.T. was really in the room with the kids and they reacted directly with his little polystyrene body rather than a tennis ball on a stick. He’s amusingly clumsy and pulls at everyone’s heartstrings on both sides of the screen. Many of the film’s most iconic moments have become a part the pop culture zeitgeist, having been duplicated and referenced countless times over the years. For anyone who hasn’t seen the film in a while, it’s definitely worth revisiting.

Special features include: deleted scenes; “40 years of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial”; “TCM Classic Film Festival: An Evening with Steven Spielberg” “Steven Spielberg & E.T.”; “The E.T. Journals”; “A Look Back”; “The Evolution and Creation of E.T.”; “The E.T. Reunion”; “The Music of E.T.: A Discussion with John Williams”; the 20th anniversary premiere; designs, photography and marketing; and theatrical trailer. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Easter Sunday on Blu-ray
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Easter Sunday (Blu-ray, DVD and Digital copy)
A man (Jo Koy) returns home for an Easter celebration with his riotous, bickering, eating, drinking, laughing, loving family, in this love letter to his Filipino-American community.

This is clearly a platform film for Koy, who endeavours to put all the things that make his family and community perfect for his stand-up routine into a movie. Interestingly, the Filipino cast boasts about the film’s accuracy in the bonus features, identifying with certain characters or scenarios in the script. However, even viewers who do not belong to the community will be able to enjoy the comedy as it’s still centred on the usual family tropes: guilt, intrusion and love. The most unfortunate thing about the movie is most of its funniest moments were extracted for the trailer, which deflates the reaction when it actually occurs on screen.

Special features include: deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes featurette; and gag reel. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

The Invitation on Blu-ray
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

The Invitation (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
After the death of her mother and having no other known relatives, Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) takes a DNA test… and discovers a long-lost cousin she never knew she had. Invited by her newfound family to a lavish wedding in the English countryside, she’s at first seduced by the sexy aristocrat host (Thomas Doherty), but is soon thrust into a nightmare of survival as she uncovers twisted secrets in her family’s history and the unsettling intentions behind their sinful generosity.

When Evie meets her distant relatives, it seems too good to be true. They’re incredibly wealthy and very welcoming… for the most part. But as one can never be too careful, Evie smartly schedules a regular check-in with her best friend, who is vicariously taking in all the luxury via video calls, though Evie is not clever enough to avoid jogging at night on a strange property. Nonetheless, she gradually allows herself to be swept up into the fantasy, which turns into a fantastical nightmare. Fans of the horror genre may be able to discern her newfound kin’s real intentions, but the final act still manages to surprise and deliver a powerful conclusion. It’s very interesting to review this picture as an alternative take on the classic, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as it takes many liberties while still incorporating some key elements and characters.

Special features include: theatrical and unrated versions of the film; deleted and extended scenes including an alternate ending; “Lifting the veil: Story”; “The wedding party: Cast”; “Till death do us part: Design”; and outtakes and bloopers. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

The Kindred on Blu-ray
Synapse Films

The Kindred (Blu-ray)
After the death of his molecular scientist mother (Amanda Pays), John (David Allen Brooks) takes a group of friends back to his childhood home to destroy her old lab notes per her request. John soon discovers his mother had been working on genetic experiments and as a result, he has a “little brother.” John and his friends are in a race against time to get to the creature before it falls into the evil hands of his mother’s former colleague (Rod Steiger).

The story begins with a pretty standard, ill-advised trip to a remote house to clean up the mother’s work. Unfortunately for John’s friends, some of them are going to be attacked by a monster. Of course, since they’re all researchers, they approach the situation scientifically, which slightly alters the dynamic of the otherwise run-of-the-mill, experiment-gone-wrong creature feature. It stalks them from the darkness and seems to understand John is its kin, though that doesn’t make it very welcoming. Then there’s Steiger’s character who insists it’s a scientific breakthrough that can’t be destroyed in spite of its destructive behaviour — an interesting stance given the circumstances.

Special features include: commentary with directors Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter, moderated by horror journalist Steve Barton; “Inhuman Experiments — The Making of The Kindred”; a special compilation of creature effects artist Michael McCracken, Jr.’s never-before-seen on-set footage; still gallery and original storyboards; and trailers. (Synapse Films)

Nope on 4K
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Nope [Collector’s Edition] (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)
Following their father’s shocking death, Hollywood animal wrangler OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and his sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) begin observing unexplained phenomena on their vast Southern California ranch that leads them down an obsessive rabbit hole as they plot attempts to capture the mystery on camera. Along with a former child star turned family theme park ringmaster (Steven Yeun) who neighbors the siblings, the pair’s efforts to chase the spectacle soon bring terrifying consequences and unimaginable horror. The result is a complex social thriller that unpacks the seeds of violence, risk and opportunism that are inseparable from the romanticized history of the American West … and from show business itself.

Filmmaker Jordan Peele has become known for making movies that are never what they seem at first glance. While it’s easy to come to conclusions about the narrative’s subject, there’s much more only revealed by viewing the picture. In a Q&A, Peele notes he “wrote a script without any care if it was possible to make.” Then he set out to find the people that could help him make it happen. Spectacle is at the film’s centre, but it’s approached in multiple ways, from the fascination with a TV tragedy to the greatest show on Earth vibes to the actual phenomenon that captures audiences on- and off-screen. There’s also a commentary about the movie business thread throughout the narrative, which varies in its subtlety. This movie doesn’t have the same shock value as Peele’s other pictures, but it is a fascinating watch nonetheless.

Special features include: deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “Call Him Jean Jacket”; “Mystery Man of Muybridge”; and gag reel. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo on DVD
Warner Bros. Animation

Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo! (DVD)
Mystery Inc. has cracked the case to top all cases! They’ve tracked down Coco Diablo, the head of the notorious costume crime syndicate that colludes The Black Knight, Space Kook and the Ghost Diver. With Coco and her kitty in prison, Mystery Inc. thinks they can finally enjoy a break. Wrong! Suddenly, menacing doppelgänger ghosts of the Scooby crew and favourite classic foes show up in Coolsville to threaten Halloween. Now it’s up to the meddling kids — and their unlikely new partner Coco — to unmask the latest scoundrel and save Halloween! For Shaggy and Scooby-Doo, with trick-or-treating on the line — this time it’s personal!

This Halloween special is a great throwback for fans of the original series as a number of the old school villains are brought back for this amusing caper. Not surprisingly, Fred is very antsy without a case to solve since he’s never exhibited any other hobbies or interests besides his van and Daphne. However, this picture does finally confirm Velma’s attraction to women in a manner that fits the narrative and adds another layer to the case. Coco is a fun, temporary addition to the crew as it’s never quite clear whose side she’s really on and her cat is potentially even more trouble.

Special features include: “El Bandito”; “Headless Horseman of Halloween”; and “To Switch a Witch.” (Warner Bros. Animation)

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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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