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Review: This week’s releases include people whose lives take unexpected turns

This week’s releases include an animated horror adaptation; a world devolved; a high-stakes basketball game; a classic updated; a music-fuelled journey and more.

A marauder from 'The Forever Purge.' © Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures
A marauder from 'The Forever Purge.' © Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

This week’s releases include an animated horror adaptation; a world devolved; a high-stakes basketball game; a classic updated; a music-fuelled journey; a haunting biopic; a comedy that falls flat; and a one-of-a-kind genius.

Another 48 Hrs. on Blu-ray
Paramount Home Entertainment

Another 48 Hrs. (Blu-ray)

Eight years after the first 48 hours of mayhem, Reggie (Eddie Murphy) is about to be released from the pen. But, after the bus transporting him flips over (17 times), Inspector Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) enlists the ex-con for another seemingly impossible two-day task to nail an elusive drug lord with a price on Reggie’s head.

There was eight years between the sequel and its predecessor — and it shows. The time lapse is actually incorporated into the narrative as Reggie’s jail time since both actors had significantly changed over that period. Unfortunately, Murphy may have grown out of his first big-screen character in that time. While Nolte never really strayed far from the shady cop persona, Murphy had a lot of other roles and became one Hollywood’s hottest actors. Thus, Reggie emerges from prison more sophisticated than when he went in, which is an unusual response to incarceration. The connecting thread that reunites the pair is also pretty thin and the conflict between them feels much more forced than the first time. Since the original picture was built around their dissenting partnership, the fact that that dynamic doesn’t return at 100 percent is disappointing.

Special features include: “Filmmaker Focus: Director Walter Hill”; and theatrical trailer. (Paramount Home Entertainment)

Beats on Blu-ray
Music Box Films

Beats (Blu-ray)

Scotland, 1944. Johnno (Cristian Ortega) and Spanner (Lorn Macdonald) are best mates with a shared love for electronic dance music, and polar opposites destined for wholly different futures. Straight-laced Johnno is leaving town for a middle-class life with his mother and cop step-dad, while Spanner is facing a dead-end with his unhinged criminal brother. When they learn of an unsanctioned underground rave, they decide to sneak out for one last crazy night together. The film is set against the backdrop of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994, which banned gatherings featuring music with “repetitive beats” across the UK.

Johnno and Spanner don’t live on the same side of the tracks and they likely would never have met if they didn’t attend the same school, even if the latter only attends occasionally. However, their shared passion for electronica strengthens their bond and even though Johnno tends to shy away from trouble, that doesn’t stop Spanner from dragging him into it. The cop step-dad certainly complicates matters, but he’s not an abusive hard-ass as he would likely be in an American story. Instead, he’s determined to give the family a better life, which means taking Johnno away from everything he loves. The absurd law that fuels their rebellion is probably the most interesting part of the narrative as a local DJ encourages his listeners to break the rules and attend a rave. The unexpected epilogue gives the tale an additional sense of realism.

Special features include: commentary by director Brian Welsh and writer Kieran Hurley; making-of featurette; poster and photo galleries; and theatrical trailer. (Music Box Films)

The Forever Purge on 4K
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The Forever Purge (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)

The old rules of the Purge are broken as members of an underground movement, no longer satisfied with the annual night of anarchy and murder, decide to overtake America through an unending campaign of mayhem and massacre. No one is safe. On the morning after the Purge, a masked gang of killers attacks a wealthy Texas ranching family and their workers. Exposed by daylight, the two groups are forced to band together and fight back as the country spirals into chaos and the United States begins to disintegrate around them.

This movie’s white supremacist tone and rise of the underclass is a stark and somewhat amplified reflection of the country’s current, real-life climate. On the one hand, the working class that feels undervalued and underpaid is attempting to overthrow the wealthy and powerful. On the other, racist extremists are annihilating all non-white Americans to recreate the country in their own twisted image. The film maintains good pace with regular intervals of action as the groups of varying size fend off marauders and escape their traps. Still, the narrative spends a fair amount of time getting to know the main characters so audiences can connect with them as they try to survive the anarchy overrunning the country. There’s also the whole “Don’t judge a book by its cover” lesson, though that feels like a cheesy, heavy-handed element of the narrative. Finally, the eventual Mexican standoff is unexpected and somewhat alters the direction/mood of the story, but also fits into its tale of redemption and potential healing.

Special features include: deleted scenes; alternate storyboard opening; “Collapsing the System: Behind The Forever Purge”; “Creeptastic Wardrobe”; and theatrical trailer. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Mommie Dearest on Blu-ray
Paramount Home Entertainment

Mommie Dearest (Blu-ray)

Based on Christina Crawford’s controversial best-selling, tell-all novel, the film portrays Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) struggling for her career, while battling the inner demons of her private life. While the public Crawford was a strong-willed, glamorous object of admiration, behind the scenes is a private Crawford — the woman desperate to be a single mother and trying to survive in a devastating industry that swallows careers thoughtlessly.

Even now, many may have heard of the extremes of some of Joan’s behaviour, but this movie portrays a woman totally unhinged and likely suffering from some mental health issues. Coincidentally, adopting and raising children was probably one of her worst life choices as she lacks the patience and stability to be a good parent. Dunaway’s stunning transformation is mind-boggling as she appears to become Joan inside and out. There are a number of shocking scenes in the movie as Joan vents her frustrations on a young Christina, who is not old enough to know the treatment is unacceptable and outside the norm. While the focus is on Joan the mother, there is some time given to her male companions — all referred to as “Uncle ____” — and her treatment of them, including certain expectations when they’re out in public. The performances are exceptional… and will give people pause when they see a wire hanger going forward.

Special features include: commentary by American drag queen Hedda Lettuce; commentary by filmmaker John Waters; “Filmmaker Focus: Biographer Justin Bozung on Director Frank Perry”; “The Revival of Joan”; “Life with Joan”; “Joan Lives On”; photo gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Paramount Home Entertainment)

Night of the Animated Dead on Blu-ray
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Night of the Animated Dead (Blu-ray & Digital copy)

Siblings Barbara and Johnny visit their father’s grave in a remote cemetery in Pennsylvania when they are suddenly set upon by zombies. Barbara flees and takes refuge in an abandoned farmhouse along with stranded motorist Ben and four local survivors found hiding in the cellar. Together, the group must fight to stay alive against the oncoming horde of zombies, while also confronting their own fears and prejudices.

This animated adaptation of the classic undead picture from the grandfather of horror, George A. Romero, is an interesting exercise in changing mediums and deciding what should be altered to better fit. In the case of this movie, they use the visual style to fill in some gaps and actually portray some scenes not shown in the film related to the characters arrival at the house. Creators generate a lot of zombie creatures, each unique in its appearance from age, gender, clothes and level of decay, which helps bring the whole story to life. Moreover, they enhance the gore, which was relatively tame in the original. Now, heads explode in gunfire, and blood spurts and flows from zombies and humans alike. The voice cast is surprisingly impressive with recognizable actors taking on these iconic roles, including Josh Duhamel, Dulé Hill, Katharine Isabelle, Katee Sackhoff, Will Sasso and Jimmi Simpson.

Special features include: making-of featurette. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

Space Jam: A New Legacy on Blu-ray
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Space Jam: A New Legacy (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)

When LeBron James and his youngest son Dom (Cedric Joe) are trapped in a digital space by a rogue A.I. (Don Cheadle), LeBron must get them home safe by leading Bugs, Lola Bunny and the whole gang of notoriously undisciplined Looney Tunes to victory over the A.I.’s digitized champions on the court: a powered-up roster of professional basketball stars as you’ve never seen them before. It’s Tunes versus Goons in the highest-stakes challenge of his life, which will redefine LeBron’s bond with his son and shine a light on the power of being yourself. The ready-for-action Tunes destroy convention, supercharge their unique talents and surprise even “King” James by playing the game their own way.

Since this is a big studio movie, one of the more amusing things to do during the big game is scan the crowd, which consists of a mishmash of licensed characters. There are other classic animated personalities, while the live action characters appear to be a collection of cosplayers in an assortment of costumes from the last several decades. It was somewhat off-putting to hear so much ego-stroking for James in the picture’s first act. Most people have heard his name and know he’s a good basketball player. It seemed unnecessary to repeatedly sing his praises and reassert his stardom to the point that viewers may begin thinking, “Okay, we get it!”— particularly when James’ acting abilities (or ability to take himself less seriously) are not the elements anyone will be overly complimenting any time soon. However, once they’re past all the flattery and focus shifts to the toonier parts of the program, it becomes more entertaining — it’s especially interesting (and kind of weird) to see the characters in a more modern animation style.

Special features include: deleted scenes; “First Quarter: Game On”; “Second Quarter: Teamwork”; “Third Quarter: Out of This World”; and “Fourth Quarter: The Looniest.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

Twist on Blu-ray
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Twist (Blu-ray & Digital copy)

Inspired by Charles Dickens’s iconic novel Oliver Twist, the film set in contemporary London follows the journey of Twist (Raff Law), a gifted graffiti artist trying to find his way after the loss of his mother. Lured into a street gang headed by the paternal Fagin (Michael Caine), Twist is attracted to the lifestyle — and to Red (Sophie Simnett), an alluring member of Fagin’s crew. But when an art theft goes wrong, Twist’s moral code is tested as he’s caught between Fagin, the police, and a loose-cannon enforcer (Lena Headey).

A significant, contemporary update to the story is the incorporation of parkour as a major element. The young network of thieves leap between rooftops while evading police and climb to great heights to reach their goals. These acrobatic actions are inherently exciting, which is intensified during chases as there’s less room for error. However, the tale differs in a number of other ways from its inspiration, including a loving start to Twist’s life, new characters and a romance. Yet, the melding of old and new works for the narrative, creating a captivating world of art and crime. In spite of his age and noticeable mobility issues, Caine is still an excellent Fagin, presenting a fatherly figure who cares for his wards and tolerates Red’s less nurturing treatment. Overall, it’s a fun movie with traces of its source sprinkled throughout.

Special features include: “The Artful Dodger: Twist’s Underworld.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

The Ultimate Richard Pryor Collection on DVD
Time Life

The Ultimate Richard Pryor Collection: Uncensored (DVD)

Raw, sometimes shocking and always thrilling, Pryor — a once-in-a-generation innovator — pushed the envelope and was almost single-handedly responsible for the comedy evolution that continues to this day. He won an Emmy®, five Grammys®, was the recipient of the very first Mark Twain Prize for American Humor (1998) and in 2017, Rolling Stone ranked him no. 1 on its list of the 50 best stand-up comics of all time. There has simply never been another comedian like him: totally genius and outrageously funny. Featuring all of Pryor’s most memorable stand-up and television performances together in one collection for the first time, the 13-disc collector’s set contains more than 26 hours of comedy: ground-breaking stand-up, mesmerizing TV appearances, the NBC show that was too hot for TV, and so much more.

Pryor is a name with which all fans of comedy should be familiar. He had a very distinct and sometimes bleak outlook on life that he used to make people laugh. While most may be familiar with his stand-up and classic routines concerning his many wives, drug abuse and later health issues, there was actually much more to the man’s career. One of the most interesting inclusions in the collection is the very short-lived children’s show, Pryor’s Place. The main attraction is the real-life lessons imparted by stories Pryor shares from his own childhood with topics such as stealing, deception/fraud, being responsible, sharing and finding love. Pryor plays a number of the adult roles, but the show’s bonus element is the random guest stars, including Robin Williams, John Ritter and Willie Nelson. The boxset also includes several accounts of Pryor’s life, from the biographical film he wrote/produced/directed, Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, to a feature-length documentary to a documentary short. What’s clear is he inspired a lot of people, and was a comedic role model for his contemporaries and upcoming performers alike.

There are no special features. (Time Life)

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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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