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Review: This week’s releases play the cards they’re dealt

This week’s releases include the return to a post-apocalyptic world; an exaggerated version of history; an enduring, righteous feud; the first adventures of a new USS crew; an unwelcome gift; a passionate amateur film crew; and a heist gone wrong.

A scene from 'A Quiet Place Part 2'
A scene from 'A Quiet Place Part 2' courtesy of Paramount Pictures
A scene from 'A Quiet Place Part 2' courtesy of Paramount Pictures

This week’s releases include the return to a post-apocalyptic world; an exaggerated version of history; an enduring, righteous feud; the first adventures of a new USS crew; an unwelcome gift; a passionate amateur film crew; and a heist gone wrong.

A Quiet Place Part 2 on 4K
Paramount Home Entertainment

A Quiet Place: Part II (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)

Following the deadly events at home, the Abbott family (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe) must now face the terrors of the outside world as they continue their fight for survival in silence. Forced to venture into the unknown, they quickly realize that the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats that lurk beyond the sand path.

This movie picks up closely after the events of the first film. Evelyn now finds herself alone with two kids and a baby with no shelter to keep them safe from the prowling monsters. Gathering just the necessities, they set out on a familiar road already marked with tragedy to find a new place to hide. Almost by accident, they discover two things on their travels: another survivor (Cillian Murphy) willing to provide temporary protection and a chance at a new life. This movie reveals yet another of the monsters’ weaknesses, which other people have learned to use to their advantage and foster nurturing communities… or vicious societies of marauders. This is a solid follow-up to the first picture, though the last act feels a little pressed to be explosive.

Special features include: “Director’s Diary: Filming with John Krasinski”; “Pulling Back the Curtain”; “Regan’s Journey”; “Surviving the Marina”; and “Detectable Disturbance: Visual Effects and Sound Design.” (Paramount Home Entertainment)

American Gods Season 3 on Blu-ray
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

American Gods: Season Three (Blu-ray & Digital copy)

Dangerous secrets intensify the inevitable war building between the Old Gods of mythology and the New Gods of technology. When Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) discovers that his boss, Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), is not only one of the Old Gods but is also his father, Shadow attempts to break away and find his own path. Guided on this spiritual journey by the gods of his black ancestors, the Orishas, Shadow puts down roots in the idyllic, snowy town of Lakeside, Wisconsin — but this small town holds dark and bloody secrets that force him to accept his destiny. Rather than facing a choice between divinity or humanity, Shadow must now decide just what kind of god he wants to be.

After the volatile conclusion of last season, everyone scatters to the wind. Shadow truly looks like he moved on, doing well at a blue-collar job and finding himself attracted to a local woman. But the first reminder of his past arrives in the form of an old acquaintance and the next is the man himself, Wednesday. Laura Moon is on her own mission that takes her beyond death and back again, even more determined to get her revenge on the god that ruined her life. In the meantime, Technical Boy is having trouble recovering after his last encounter with the Old Gods and Mr. World isn’t exactly being supportive. Not a lot is resolved this season, but things are made more complicated — particularly as Shadow and Laura try to navigate their destinies.

Special features include: “Meet the New Gods of Season Three”; “Road to Epiphany: The Season Three Journey”; and “Five Questions for the Cast.” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

The Dead Zone on Blu-ray
Scream Factory

The Dead Zone [Collector’s Edition] (Blu-ray)

School teacher Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) had a beautiful fiancée, a rewarding career and a fortunate life… until one tragic accident changed everything. After slamming into an 18-wheeler, Johnny is plunged into a five-year coma. When he awakens, he finds his true collision was with destiny — he now has the remarkable gift (or curse) of seeing into the future.

Director David Cronenberg was coming off two very intense pictures, Scanners and Videodrome, and didn’t have a project of his own with which to follow them up. He therefore took on this Stephen King project, bringing his own sense of horror to the story. Casting Walken is an excellent choice as he’s able to portray this man’s loss and struggle to understand this new ability with which he’s awakened. Interestingly, he’s quicker to accept his new power than all that he lost while unconscious. His first vision overcomes him suddenly, but he conveys its meaning quite effectively. He eventually becomes convinced he can use his power to save people, but not everyone is willing to trust his advice. When one of his visions points to widespread, utter destruction, he must weigh the life of one against the lives of many.

Special features include: commentary with director of photography Mark Irwin; commentary with film historian Michael Gingold; commentary with film historian/author Dr. Steve Haberman and filmmaker/film historian Constantine Nasr; commentary with film music historian Daniel Schweiger with isolated score selections; “Sarah’s Story,” an interview with actress Brooke Adams; “Cold Visions: Producing The Dead Zone,” interviews with production manager John M. Eckert and associate producer Jeffrey Chernov; “Trailers from Hell – Mick Garris on The Dead Zone”; “Memories from The Dead Zone”; “The Look of The Dead Zone”; “Visions of The Dead Zone”; “The Politics of The Dead Zone”; still gallery; TV spots; and theatrical trailer. (Scream Factory)

The Great Season 1 on Blu-ray
Paramount Home Entertainment

The Great: Season One (DVD)

A satirical, comedic drama — and occasionally true story — about the rise of Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning) from outsider to the longest reigning female ruler in Russia’s history. An idealistic romantic young girl, she arrives from Prussia for an arranged marriage to the mercurial Emperor Peter (Nicholas Hoult) hoping for love and sunshine, and finds instead a dangerous, depraved, backward world that she resolves to change. All she has to do is kill her husband, beat the church, baffle the military and get the court on her side.

Though this series may not be historically accurate, it does offer an exciting depiction of how Catherine wrestled power away from her husband. She arrives with a romantic notion of what her marriage will be like and is rudely met by Peter’s callousness and disinterest. However, the Emperor’s indifference allows her space to see the chinks in his rule and plan to usurp him when the opportunity arises. She is portrayed as a smart young woman who finds ambition and strength because of Peter’s behaviour. The series presents a vibrant, opulent aesthetic as Catherine is surrounded by indulgence, though her own style is less affluent. It’s also set to an energetic, contemporary soundtrack that complements the narrative. The season ends on an unexpected cliff-hanger and it will be interesting to see where they choose to begin the next chapter.

Special features include: “Bold and Brash: Inside The Great”; “Palatial Panache: The Style of The Great”; and gag reel. (Paramount Home Entertainment)

Pixie on DVD
Paramount Home Entertainment

Pixie (DVD)

On a path to avenge her mother’s death, Pixie Hardy (Olivia Cooke) attempts a heist that will give her the means to leave her small town life behind. When the plan goes horribly wrong she’s forced to team up with a pair of misfits who are clearly in over their heads. On the run from an organized gang — criminal priests and nuns, led by Father McGrath (Alec Baldwin) — the trio will scheme and swindle anyone they come across.

This is a muddy heist film that never really finds its footing. Pixie is certainly pulling the strings, but she’s not really in control as the whole situation spirals away from her. The fact that she’s part of a crime family further clouds the water, as does the fact that the money is stolen from a rival criminal religious order. Pixie is, however, determined to achieve her goal, enlisting the help of anyone willing to lend it. The best part of the film is in the last act when a life-altering secret is shared and a mass shootout occurs in a church.

There are no special features. (Paramount Home Entertainment)

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 on Blu-ray
Paramount Home Entertainment

Star Trek: Lower Decks – Season One (Blu-ray)

The first animated Star Trek series in almost 50 years focuses on the support crew serving on one of Starfleet’s least important ships, the U.S.S. Cerritos, in 2380. Ensigns Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome), Ensign Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid), Ensign Samanthan Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) and Ensign D’Vana Tendi (Noël Wells) have to keep up with their duties and their social lives, while the ship is being rocked by a multitude of sci-fi anomalies.

In spite of airing in a different format, this series is still rooted in the Star Trek universe through-and-through. But the fact that its animated lets showrunners follow some interesting storylines that are still inline with the franchise, but potentially difficult to tell in live action. Mariner has a classic fear of the captain’s chair even though her lineage and skills would’ve put her in a position of authority long ago. Conversely, Boimler is desperate to be promoted and eventually earn a leadership position even though he isn’t suited to the role yet. Rutherford and Tendi are both good at their individual special skill positions on the ship, but their attempts to better round out their lives often has negative consequences. This is probably the most comedic show in the franchise and the creators do a great job weaving this universe of humorous science fiction.  

Special features include: deleted animatic scenes; “Lower Decktionaries”; “Crisis Point: The Rise of Vindicta” trailer; “Faces of the Fleet”; “Hiding in Plain Sight”; full length animatic. (Paramount Home Entertainment)

Super 8 on 4K
Paramount Home Entertainment

Super 8 (4K Ultra HD & Digital copy)

The story of six friends who witness a train wreck while making a Super 8 movie, only to discover that something unimaginable escaped during the crash. They soon discover that the only thing more mysterious than what it is, is what it wants.

Ten years ago, director J.J. Abrams — alongside producer Steven Spielberg — captured the wonder of childhood filmmaking. These kids are particularly skilled in their craft, as evidenced by the short film that plays over the credits. But their production is interrupted by a striking train crash that nearly kills them and puts them on the radar of a local military operation. They discover their filmmaking skills can actually have multiple applications as they try to figure out what escaped and how to keep it from killing everyone they know. The government experiment plot isn’t new in itself, but they present it in a way that’s fresh and engaging. This movie presents similar friendship dynamics that later lifted Stranger Things to such popularity as audiences can connect with the teen protagonists and their quest.

Special features include: commentary by J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk and Larry Fong; deleted scenes; “The Dream Behind Super 8”; “The Search for New Faces”; “Meet Joel Courtney”; “Rediscovering Steel Town”; “The Visitor Lives”; “Scoring Super 8”; Do You Believe in Magic?”; “The 8mm Revolution”; “Deconstructing the Train Crash”; and easter eggs. (Paramount Home Entertainment)

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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