Editor’s Notes: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Duck Dynasty: The Complete Series, A Mermaid’s Tale, The Space Between Us, Good Morning, The Climber, Between Us, A Mermaid’s Tale, & Ice: Season One are out on their respective home entertainment formats today, May 16th.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Sony Home Entertainment) picks up after the events in “Resident Evil: Retribution.” Alice (Milla Jovovich) is the only survivor of what was meant to be humanity’s final stand against the undead. Now, she must return to where the nightmare began — The Hive in Raccoon City, where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering its forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors of the apocalypse.
This long-running, video game-inspired franchise has produced six films in a fifteen-year span. The story opens with Washington, D.C. in smoking ruins. Slice hopes to obtain an airborne antivirus that can cure the millions of victims who have been transformed into zombies. Alice must confront her nemesis, Dr. Alexander Isaacs (Iain Glen) and make her way through hordes of zombies and mutant monsters.
Ms. Jovovich, who’s played Alice in all six films, makes a strong female warrior, up to any obstacle, handling herself physically against often daunting odds, and displaying courageous leadership in a world of nearly constant mayhem and unpredictability. The climactic scene involves a group of females — Alice, comrade-in-arms Claire (Ali Larter), the Red Queen (Jovovich’s 9-year-old daughter Ever), and an elderly board chairwoman (Jovovich, aged with make-up) — who band together to clean up a devastating mess. Writer/director Paul Anderson makes a statement of female determination and willingness as this courageous team combines their talents to solve a seemingly unsolvable problem.
Bonus extras on the 2-disc 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo Pack include the featurelettes Explore the Hive and The Badass Trinity & the Women of Resident Evil;” a behind-the-scenes look at the film’s stunts and weaponry; a sneak peek at Resident Evil: Vendetta; and director Paul Anderson and Milla Jovovich breaking down key moments and discussing the franchise. A digital HD copy is included. A single-disc Blu-ray edition is also available.
Duck Dynasty: The Complete Series
Duck Dynasty: The Complete Series (Lionsgate) is based on the colorful adventures and homegrown humor of the Robertsons, the backwoods family that built an empire out of a small duck call business. The show deals with the ups and downs of running a family business against the backdrop of the family’s cultural heritage and lifestyle. The program skewers traditional notions about what a multimillion-dollar company is, and who runs it. It also shows that having a successful company or wealth does not have to change a person’s way of life.
There is focus on hunting and other outdoor activities, which might not be appealing to some viewers, and there are definitely unfiltered sexist attitudes exhibited by older members of the family. The younger generation of Robertsons, however, show us how they are both embracing their traditions and infusing it with more progressive ways of thinking. The ongoing theme of the series is that nothing is more important than family.
Episode highlights include Willie and Si’s woodchopper competition, Sadie’s driving lessons, a redneck Christmas, John Luke’s wedding, a newly installed surveillance system, a samurai sword that intrigues the guys, a family vacation to Hawaii, a warehouse termite infestation, Mia’s cleft lip and palate surgery, a mishap with a drone, and an intense bingo tournament.
All 130 widescreen episodes from the show’s 11 seasons are contained in a 24-DVD box set.
Also available is Duck Dynasty: The Final Season – Last Call (Lionsgate), a 2-DVD set that follows the Robertson family as they conquer new family milestones while showcasing their down-home Southern charm. The family spends a weekend at their childhood summer camp, Lil’ Will shops for his first car, Reed gets married, Rowdy’s adoption becomes official, and Gus turns 1 year old.
The Space Between Us
The Space Between Us (Universal Home Entertainment) is a science-fiction romantic tale about 16-year-old Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield, Hugo), the first human born on Mars to an astronaut (Janet Montgomery) who discovered she was pregnant after take-off and died during childbirth. Gardner has lived his entire life with a team of scientists on the red planet. He’s always longed to see Earth to find the father he’s never known and to meet a beautiful street smart girl named Tulsa (Britt Robertson, Tomorrowland) he’s befriended online. Tulsa is a troubled kid who’s been bounced around foster homes and rides a motorcycle. They seem to have a deep connection.
Gardner is an outcast caught between two worlds. When the opportunity arises, he travels to Earth and is quarantined by NASA, which runs tests on him as he gets used to his new heaviness in Earth’s atmosphere. He escapes, meets Tulsa and, eager to find his father, sets out with Tulsa on a cross-country race to unravel the mysteries of how he came to be and where he belongs in the universe. But his heart may not be able to withstand Earth’s atmosphere and his life is in danger every minute he remains.
The concept for this young adult romantic drama is fairly novel, though its treatment — despite its setting on not one but two planets — tends to fall back on teen romance cliches. The young leads are engaging and have pleasant screen chemistry, but the film turns into a pretty mushy affair. The premise — that a female astronaut’s pregnancy would not be detected — is hard to swallow. There are some clever scenes, showing how Gardner tries to accustom himself to Earth, learning about its customs with wide-eyed innocence, but there are so many holes in the plot that what starts promising turns into an awkwardly scripted resolution.
Bonus extras on the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include deleted scenes, alternate ending, “Love” featurette, and feature commentary with director Peter Chelsom. A Digital HD copy is enclosed.
Good Morning (The Criterion Collection), set in a suburban Tokyo housing complex in the late 1950s, is one of director Yasujiro Ozu’s lighter films, telling the story of how two schoolboys disrupt their entire neighborhood by going on a silence strike because their parents refuse to buy a television. The parents believe that a TV in the home will lead to idiocy. The effects of the silence strike on the community is examined through several sub-plots featuring colorful characters, providing a cross-section of tragicomic situations.
An elderly man gets drunk because he cannot get a job. A middle-aged man confronts his approaching retirement. A young couple are inspired to declare their love entirely in terms of the weather. An unwanted grandmother broods about the ingratitude of a grandchild. A kindly woman is forced to move by neighbors who question her morality. There is a diverse look at humanity in this one community where housewives gossip about the neighbors’ new washing machine and unemployed husbands seek work as dolor-to-door salesmen.
A variation of Ozu’s I Was Born, But… (1932), Good Morning is a clever ensemble piece, precisely scripted. It is more playful in tone than Ozu’s best-known films and offers several good roles for actors who had appeared in previous Ozu motion pictures.
The Blu-ray release features a 4K digital restoration. Bonus features include I Was Born, But…, Ozu’s 1932 silent comedy with a 2008 score by Donald Sosin; new interview with film scholar David Bordwell; new video essay on Ozu’s use of humor by critic David Cairns; a fragment of A Straightforward Boy, a 1929 silent film by Ozu; and a critical essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum.
The Climber (Arrow Video) is a gangster film in the tradition of such classics as The Public Enemy and Scarface that chronicles the rise and inevitable fall of small-time smuggler Aldo (Joe Dallesandro). Beaten and abandoned by the local gang boss after he tries to skim off some profits for himself, Aldo forms his own group of misfits in order to exact revenge.
After shooting the cult movies Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula in Europe, Dallesandro spent much of the 1970s making movies on the continent. In France, he worked with directors Louis Malle and Walerian Borowczyk, and in Italy he starred in pictures that spanned several genres. He returned to the United States in the 1980s, where he starred as Lucky Luciano in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Cotton Club.
In The Climber, Dallesandro is effective as a young tough aspiring to a life as career criminal. He starts out working at a warehouse for a gangster where he helps to relocate illegal contraband. Because of his ruthlessness and dependability, he begins to rise in the organized crime hierarchy. The more powerful he becomes, the more other “climbers” emerge to take his place.
There are some odd directorial choices, particularly a final scene shot in slow motion that draws out the action interminably and drains most of the excitement from the scene. Since slow motion was used previously in a night club sequence, the repetition of this device lacks impact. Shot on location in and around Naples and Rome, The Climber has an overall gritty look that suits the underworld saga, and violence erupts frequently when things don’t go as planned. The pace often works against the narrative of Aldo moving up the ladder of organized crime as it tends to meander rather than move briskly.
Bonus features on the 2-disc Blu-ray + DVD edition include “Little Joe’s Adventures in Europe,” a brand new interview with Joe Dallesandro on his numerous European film appearances during the 1970s and early 1980s; and reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork. The unrated film contains the original Italian soundtrack with optional newly translated English subtitles as well as an alternative English-language soundtrack with optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
A Mermaid’s Tale
A Mermaid’s Tale (Lionsgate) is a modern-day fairy tale about Ryan (Caitlyn Carmichael), a 12-year-old girl forced to move with her father, Matt (Jerry O’Connell), to the dying fishing town where he was born. She will live with her crusty old grandfather, Art (Barry Bostwick), and as she tries to fit in and make new friends, she discovers a secret cove, home to a pod of dolphins. When she accidentally loses her necklace that contains a photo of her deceased mother, a mermaid named Coral (Sydney Scotia) returns it to her. Ryan is fascinated by Coral, and the two girls become friends.
Matt left the area years earlier to get away from his own father’s illusions of mermaids. Ryan, however, is fascinated by them, and when she befriends Coral, both girls are eager to learn about each other. Ryan takes Coral clothes shopping and teaches her about putting on make-up. Coral shows Ryan the wonders of what lies below the ocean. Like many pre-adolescent girls, the new friends laugh and giggle a lot.
The film is pleasant, if not particularly distinctive. The acting is adequate, and the story should be fun for a pre-teen female audience. But the film is not for more discriminating viewers. It takes cliches about mermaids and recycles them yet again with a slightly different spin. If you’re looking for a well-made, funny mermaid film, check out Splash, starring Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks.
There are no bonus features on the G-rated widescreen DVD release.
Ice: Season One
Ice: Season One (Entertainment One) follows the prestigious diamond-dealing Green family, as they enter the underbelly of the Los Angeles diamond trade. Jake (Cam Gigandet, The Magnificent Seven) and Freddy (Jeremy Sisto, Six Feet Under) are brothers brought together by their father, Isaac (Raymond Barry, Training Day), the patriarch behind the Green & Green Diamond Company, and their uncle Cam (Ray Winstone, The Departed). After Freddy kills a prominent diamond dealer, his brother Jake must bail him out and save the family business from Lady Rah (Judith Shekoni), a ruthless diamond dealer who is not afraid to skirt the law.
By saving Freddy, the family falls under the thumb of Lady Rah, who begins to involve the Greens in her business deals. As she increases her demands, the Greens must maneuver through blood diamond deals and criminals while trying to stay one step ahead and keep the business open. When ruthless diamond smuggler Pieter Van de Bruin (Donald Sutherland, The Hunger Games) enters the picture, the family realizes their problems have only just begun.
Ice is really a gangster type movie that replaces gangsters with corrupt jewelry smugglers. With focus on the two brothers, there is a hint of The Godfather, though the writing comes nowhere close. Though the first episode is reasonably interesting, the series doesn’t sustain attention because so many plot points are taken from better sources. Directed and produced by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), the show deals with a dynamic we’ve seen many times before — brothers competing in a high-stakes pursuit. The chemistry between Sisto and Gigandet leaves a lot to be desired. With so many solid TV dramas available, there’s no need to slog through this one.
All 10 episodes of the First Season are contained in the 3-disc DVD set. Bonus features include an interview with Jeremy Sisto and Cam Gigandet, and “Diamond Girl” music video.
Between Us (IFC Films) treats a familiar situation from a fresh perspective as a long-term relationship threatens to implode over the course of one tumultuous night. After six years together, thirty somethings Henry (Ben Feldman, Mad Men) and Dianne (Olivia Thereby, Juno) are caught between their fears of commitment and social pressure to settle down and marry. An impulsive decision and a surprise revelation send them into an emotional tailspin.
Heading out into the Los Angeles night, Henry and Dianne each encounter strangers. She meets a lonely performance artist (Adam Goldberg, Saving Private Ryan), he a charming musician (Analeigh Tipton, Crazy Stupid Love). These encounters offer the possibility of new romantic thrills, but the choices Henry and Dianne make will determine what will be left of their relationship when morning comes.
Writer-director Rafael Palacio Illingsworth focuses on that period in a relationship when it will either end or move forward. Though the couple have thought of themselves as the antithesis of marriage complete with a home in suburbia, children, and a regimented life, they find themselves edging into that lifestyle. This is shown when, on the verge of buying a modern apartment at the urging of Henry’s parents (Peter Bogdanovich, Lesley Ann Warren), Henry backs out at the last minute. Though Dianne is upset with his vacillation, she, too, is reluctant to take the step of owning something so permanent.
Recognizing the gravity of commitment, they rebel, figuring their rebellion will either make or break the relationship. The film features lots of bickering and angst among the main characters, but ultimately provides a compelling portrait of the fragility of contemporary relationships.
There are no bonus features on the unrated widescreen DVD release.