This week’s releases include: a return to zombie’s roots; police corruption in Brazil; an exercise in investing in society; an award-winning Dr. Seuss original; a gospel singer rises to the top; new adventures from the New York zoo; a filmmaker/actor reunion; and a story of redemption.

The Dead on Blu-rayThe Dead (Blu-ray)
When the last flight out of war-torn Africa crashes off the coast, Lt. Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman) is the sole survivor in a land where the dead are returning to life and attacking the living. On the run in a hostile and inhospitable parched landscape, Murphy has to use his wits and ingenuity if he is to get home alive to his family. When he crosses paths with local solider Daniel Dembele (Prince David Osei), a man frantically searching for his son, they join forces. Two desperate men from two very different cultures fight side-by-side to survive across the incredible vistas of Africa as the world around them succumbs to the deadliest of viruses.

This is the modern zombie’s return to its roots. The Ford Brothers deliver a solid zombie picture about survival and loss. The dense population of the continent translates to a constant threat of flesh-eating creatures, of which the filmmakers take full advantage. The slow zombies have ghastly wounds, but aren’t excessively gruesome. Survival is the main objective, but death is winning the fight. The Dead is this year’s must-see zombie picture.

Special features include: commentary by writer/producer/co-director Howard J. Ford and writer/director of photography/co-director Jon Ford; a deleted scene; and “Unearthing The Dead: Behind the Scenes” featurette. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within on DVDElite Squad: The Enemy Within (DVD)
The sprawling slum that surrounds Rio de Janeiro is one of the most dangerous places on earth, and as the head of Rio’s Special Police Operations Battalion (BOPE), Captain Nascimento (Wagner Moura) has seen his share of intense situations. When a BOPE mission to stop a jail riot ends in the violent death of a gang leader, Nascimento finds himself accused of a massacre. But the citizens of Rio, tired of the crime and drugs that plague their city, embrace him as a national hero. Therefore, instead of being fired, he finds himself promoted. In his powerful new position, Nascimento brings the gangs that rule the slum to their knees, but quickly discovers that he’s only made things even easier for the dirty cops and corrupt politicians that are truly running the game. Now, Nascimento must confront his true enemies, who are much more dangerous and sitting just down the hall.

This sequel to a Brazilian cop drama is also an adequate standalone film. The corruption Nascimento stands against permeates every aspect of Rio before he even realized it was happening. The progression to this corruption is interesting and dominates the narrative. His narration is almost constant, guiding the story from its origins to its conclusion, but it’s not irritating as Nascimento’s voice becomes the familiar voice with which the reader can identify and from which s/he can learn. There’s no mystery, but each development brings a shocking realization and another crime to punish.

Special features include: making-of featurette and theatrical trailer. (VVS Films)

The Future is Now on DVDThe Future is Now (DVD)
A journalist (Liane Balaban) meets the “Man of Today” (Paul Ahmarani) who, while a responsible citizen, is disengaged from greater society. He believes once he’s dead nothing more matters. As an experiment to see if she can turn his pessimistic view around, the journalist sends him on a journey of enlightenment to prove the future does matter. Traveling the globe, he finds himself in surprising encounters with great minds in the arts and sciences. Starting with an unexpected poetry reading and conversation with experimental poet Christian Bök, “Man of Today” engages with architect Shigeru Ban, anarchist Francis Dupuis-Déri, philosopher Alain de Botton, artist Marlene Dumas, novelist Rivka Galchen, leading scientists and a ghost.

Many share a view of the world that is not optimistic; it’s not necessarily cynical, but more pragmatic. A representative of that faction is the subject of this film. The “Man of Today” abides by the rules and minimizes his carbon footprint, but has issues with the way society as a whole operates.  This journalist takes it upon herself to show the Libertarian all the wonders of the world, and the many reasons he should support and contribute to the world in which he lives. The discussions with those that practice architecture, modern art, philosophy, science and other disciplines of course convince him of the value of their work. He questions them and accepts their answers with little push back. In the end, this film is unlikely to actually convert a pragmatist as its documentary-style is somewhat preachy and boring.

There are no special features. (Entertainment One)

The Lorax on Blu-rayThe Lorax (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
In a place where the Brown Bar-ba-loots frisk about and the Humming-Fish splash around, you will find the Lorax. The Lorax speaks for the trees, which the Once-ler is chopping down as fast as he pleases. Will the Once-ler change his destructive ways and heed the wise warnings of the Lorax? With the help of a young boy and the very last Truffula Tree seed, the Once-ler may still be able to right his wrong-doings.

This is an environmental narrative about the dangers of an industrialized society to nature. The Once-ler’s disregard for the damage he is inflicting on the creatures that lived there before him is distressing. The TV special is a condensed version of the children’s book that extends the message to an animated medium. It may appear too gloomy for younger audiences, but its significance is never too early learn. The clever rhymes make it amusing and engaging, while the cute, unusual creatures drive home the film’s meaning.

Special features include: “The Lorax: The Trees! The Trees! The Voice of the Trees” featurette, exploring trees from around the world and their importance in our daily lives; and two animated stories: “Pontoffel Pock and His Magic Piano” and “Butter Battle Book.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

Mama, I Want to Sing - DVDMama, I Want to Sing (DVD)
Talented but naïve, Amara Winter (Ciara) is a young gospel singer who dreams of pop stardom. Raised in a tight-knit community, Amara is discovered by agents who quickly propel her to the top with recording sessions and television appearances.  Soured by the sudden media attention, Amara’s preacher mother (Lynn Whitfield) implores her to stay grounded.  Amara faithfully pursues her music career even in the face of creating a strained relationship with her mother, and turns to her father (Marvin Winans) and Sister Carrie (Patti LaBelle) for support.  On her way to the limelight, Amara must learn to navigate the often-treacherous world of celebrity and find a way to remain true to herself and to her family.

There are no special features. (Fox Home Entertainment)

The Penguins of Madagascar: Operation Get Ducky on DVDThe Penguins of Madagascar: Operation Get Ducky (DVD)
Those wacky Penguins are back for eight exciting egg-ventures featuring their newest pal, Eggy and a few bunny friends.

Those cuddly, crafty penguins are back for more zoo misadventures in Operation Get Ducky. The name refers to new additions to their extended family: a group of ducklings. In the first episode, the secret agents’ fatherly instincts are awakened when Marlene finds a lost egg in her habitat and asks the guys to egg-sit until they find its mother. While Private wants to coddle and care for Eggy, the rest of the team begin its training. After the egg hatches, it becomes apparent both approaches paid off – Eggy is a healthy hatchling with all of their skills combined, making him an even better operative than any one of them. In the meantime, King Julien wanted to name Eggy “Julien Jr.” and raise the duckling to be his second in command. Other stories include Julien’s unfortunate discovery of April Fool’s pranks – in August; a neighbour swap that gives Julien adorable bunny underlings that do all of his bidding; and Marlene’s first trip beyond the wall, which makes her a littler wilder than usual.

There are no special features. (DreamWorks Animation)

Take Shelter on DVDTake Shelter (DVD)
Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon) lives in a small town in Ohio with his wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain), and daughter, Hannah, a six-year-old deaf girl. When Curtis begins to have terrifying dreams, he keeps the visions to himself, channeling his anxiety into obsessively building a backyard storm shelter. His seemingly inexplicable behaviour concerns and confounds those closest to him, but the resulting strain on his marriage and tension within his community can’t compare with Curtis’s privately held fear of what his dreams may truly signify.

Special features include: commentary by director Jeff Nichols and Michael Shannon; deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes featurette; and Q&A with actors Michael Shannon & Shea Whigham. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Trash on DVDTrash (Décharge) (DVD)
Thanks to his wife Madeleine (Isabel Richer), a social worker who saved him from the street when he was 17-years-old, Pierre Dalpé (David Boutin) has become a prosperous entrepreneur, running a garbage-collection business in the Montreal area. His quiet happiness with his wife and their children changes when he crosses paths with Eve, a teenage drug addict/prostitute who belongs to a street gang. At the risk of destroying everything he’s built up, Pierre decides to make it his mission to help Eve get out of her unhealthy situation before she dies of an overdose, like his sister. But in doing so, he has to confront his old demons, to Madeleine’s despair, as she feels him slipping farther away from her every day.

It’s an interesting story that does a good job juxtaposing the two representations of trash with which it deals. Scenes of drug dealers, homeless people and prostitutes are often paired with scenes of garbage collection. The movie feels slow even though there are constantly new developments within the story and for the characters. This is the consequence of a narrative that is telling an intricate story that is more realistic than it is sensational.

There are no special features. (Entertainment One)

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