Videodrone's take on the biggest, best, coolest and culty-ist releases of the week
"Side Effects" (Universal), medical drama-turned-psychological thriller with Jude Law and Rooney Mara, is ostensibly the last feature film from Steven Soderbergh, and it's a pretty sharp piece of filmmaking. Kind of like an updated Joe Esterhaus thriller from the nineties, only smarter and without any ice picks in sight. Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand. Videodrone's review is here.
"Beautiful Creatures" (Warner), the latest teen romance with a supernatural setting, stars Alice Englert as the new girl in town with magical powers and Alden Ehrenreich as the local boy entwined with her fate. Apparently it wasn't popular to spawn a franchise. Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand.
On the more traditionally action-oriented front, there is "The Last Stand" (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand and at Redbox), the Arnold Schwarzenegger come-back film, and "Parker" (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand and at Redbox), with Jason Statham as the brutal anti-hero of the Richard Stark's crime novels. Skewing older is "Stand Up Guys" (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD, and at Redbox), the geriatric gangster buddy film with Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin.
"The ABCs of Death" (Magnet, Blu-ray and DVD) is an indie anthology horror film with 26 short pieces, "The Rolling Stones: Crossfire Hurricane" (Eagle Rock) looks back on the first two decades of the legendary band, and the Israeli drama "Yossi" (Strand, DVD) toplines the foreign list this week.
Most releases are also available as digital download and VOD via iTunes, Amazon, and other web retailers and video services.
TV on Disc:
"True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season" (HBO) is the final season of HBO's gothic pulp vampire melodrama supervised by Alan Ball, and he goes for broke with the most extreme season yet: more blood, more conspiracies, more transformations, and way more internal wars within and between the species. A little too much for many fans, but it's still addictive supernatural soap opera for many others. Oh, Sookie! 12 episodes on Blu-ray and DVD, plus commentary tracks, featurettes, and other supplements. Videodrone's review is here.
"Teen Wolf: Season 2" (Fox), MTV's entry in the supernatural teenager series, is turning out to be one of the best of the genre and a much more interesting and engaging series than "True Blood," as far as I'm concerned. 12 episodes on two discs on DVD. Reviewed on Videodrone here.
"Perception: The Complete First Season" (ABC) is TNT's latest attempt at the high-concept detective show with a damaged genius in the lead, this one with Eric McCormack as a schizophrenic neuroscience professor who can’t separate his hallucinations from real life. 10 episodes on two discs, DVD. Videodrone's review is here.
Plus: "Saving Hope: The Complete First Season" (eOne), which is also the only season of this cancelled medical show-turned-supernatural drama, and "The Aquabats Super Show: Season One" (Shout! Factory), a kid's show with "the world's first musical crime-fighting super group." Both DVD.
Cool and Classic:
"The Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics" (Warner) and "The Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Contemporary" (Warner) present nine films on Blu-ray, from 1931 to 2006, and a bonus documentary on DVD, across two box sets. You can enter to win a copy of both volumes in a giveaway from MSN and Warner Home Entertainment. Videodrone's review is here.
Two of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated films debut on Blu-ray: "My Neighbor Totoro" (Disney) from 1988, a gentle film of magic and imagination in a time of childhood anxiety and Miyazaki's first genuine masterpiece, and his 2004 fantasy adventure "Howl's Moving Castle" (Disney). Both in Blu-ray+DVD combo packs with Japanese and English soundtracks. Reviewed on Videodrone here.
"National Lampoon's Vacation: 30th Anniversary Edition" (Warner) is a new Blu-ray release of the family road movie comedy with a new documentary.
Cult films from Italy: "Cold Eyes of Fear" (Redemption) and "The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine" (Redemption), two exploitation horrors of the seventies, are restored for Blu-ray and DVD, and the spaghetti western "Grand Duel" (Blue Underground) with Lee Van Cleef arrives in DVD with the four-disc collection "Spaghetti Westerns Unchained" (Blue Underground).
Also new: the disc debuts of horror films "The Burning" (Shout! Factory) and "The Town that Dreaded Sundown" (Shout! Factory) on Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack special editions and the Blu-ray debut of the 1990 "Captain America" (Shout Factory) in its correct aspect ratio.
Streams and Channels:
The Netflix original revival of "Arrested Development" debuts on Sunday, May 26 with 15 episodes. Meanwhile, here's what currently new and available on Netflix Instant.
"The Dictator" (2012) is a Sacha Baron Cohen comedy without the mock-documentary stuntwork of "Borat." Which means the gleefully outrageous bad taste and wild exaggerations are pushed to even more cartoonish extremes.
"Defiance" (2008) is a real-life World War II drama with Daniel Craig. Not new but getting a lot of renewed interest is "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982), still the best of the big screen "Star Trek" movies.
And here are a couple of recommended titles that aren't on disc yet: "Longmire: Season 1," the A&E original series starring Robert Taylor, Katee Sackhoff, and Lou Diamond Phillips, and the shadowy British psychological drama "The October Man" (1947).
New On Demand:
"Side Effects," Steven Soderbergh's medical drama-turned-psychological thriller with Jude Law and Rooney Mara, and "Beautiful Creatures," the first film in a new supernatural teen romance franchise, are now available.
Arriving before theatrical release are two comedies: "Free Samples" with Jess Weixler and Jesse Eisenberg and "Kid-Thing" with Sydney Aguirre and Nathan Zellner.
Available from Redbox this week:
Arriving day and date with video stores is "The Last Stand" (Lionsgate Blu-ray and DVD), Arnold Schwarzenegger's come-back action film, "Parker" (Sony, Blu-ray and DVD) with Jason Statham, and "Stand Up Guys" (Lionsgate, Blu-ray and DVD) with Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin.
Also arriving in Redbox kiosks this week is "Gangster Squad" (Warner, Blu-ray and DVD), with Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling as cops in 1940s Los Angeles, and "Promised Land" (Universal, Blu-ray and DVD), a drama about fracking in Midwest farmlands written by and starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski.
|Tags:||Week in review|
Plus 'Defiance' with Daniel Craig, 'Longmire: Season 1,' revisiting 'Khan,' and more
The big news of course is the Netflix original revival of "Arrested Development," which debuts on Sunday, May 26 when 15 episodes all launch at once. We'll try to get a review in by next week. Meanwhile, here's what's available now.
"The Dictator" (2012) is a Sacha Baron Cohen comedy that forgoes all pretense of mock documentary or reality TV parody to make a big, crazy, outrageous comedy that rides roughshod over all boundaries of taste to make both its point and its punchlines. And "it's all the more focused and consistently funny for that," argues MSN film critic Glenn Kenny. For this one, Baron Cohen plays Admiral General Aladeen the blithely brutal, oppressive, and self-aggrandizing dictator of the fictional North Africa nation of Wadiya, who gets accidentally deposed and replaced by a dazed and idiotic double (Baron Cohen again) on a trip to speak at the U.N.. To get back at his back-stabbing head of security (Ben Kingsley), he teams up with a dizzy activist health-food store manager (Anna Faris, still one of the funniest women in the movies today), despite her ungainly armpit hair and inexplicable compassion for oppressed refugees from brutal regimes. Videodrone's review is here.
"Defiance" (2008) dramatizes the real-life story of the Bielski brothers, Polish Jews who escaped the Nazi roundups and created a sanctuary for thousands of Jews in the Bellarussia forests during World War II. It was a passion project for director Edward Zwick and Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell star as Bielskis.
Not new but getting a lot of renewed interest is "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982), still the best "Star Trek" feature ever made, a pirate movie in space with an obsessed villain (wild-maned and bare-chested Ricardo Mantalban) and an impish Kirk. Director Nicholas Meyer brings a panache to the production and William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley seem to have both gotten in touch with their characters and relationships all over again.
Not on disc is the shadowy British psychological drama "The October Man" (1947), written and produced by Eric Ambler and directed by Roy Ward Baker. John Mills, recovering from head trauma and his psychological torment after surviving a bus crash that killed a little girl he was caring for, is the innocent man accused of murdering a woman from his boarding house, a nightmare of petty characters, gossips and bores. This is film noir with British accents, set in a shadowy nocturnal world of cobblestone streets, lonely alleys, and a fog as atmospheric as it is symbolic of Mills' guilt, and the train whistles from the tracks next to the rooming house pull him back to the accident every time they cut through the night. All this and Joan Greenwood too!
"Brewster's Millions" (1945) is the best of the many screen adaptations of this chestnut of a stage comedy about a guy who has to spend a million in one month with nothing to show for it, and without telling anyone. It's a contrivance but the rather over-eager comedy is a lot of fun, with a terrific Dennis O'Keefe as the hapless Brewster and Eddie Anderson (Rochester on "The Jack Benny Show") hilarious as his sardonic sidekick. Dwan has a light touch and, let's face, is there ever a time when the mix of millionaire fantasy and money anxieties is not timely?
Arriving on Netflix instant a week before disc "Longmire: Season 1," the new A&E modern frontier cop show based on the Wyoming-set mystery novels by Craig Johnson and starring Robert Taylor as Sheriff Walt Longmire, a hard-bitten Montana Sheriff with frontier sensibility. I've only seen a single episode but it's got its own austere style and rhythm and a pace and tone to go with it. Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck in "Battlestar Galactica") is his deputy, a former Chicago homicide cop frustrated by the job but respectful of Longmire, and Lou Diamond Phillips is Longmire's buddy.
Plus Italian horror, spaghetti westerns, 'Captain America' circa 1990, and more
"The Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics" (Warner) and "The Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Contemporary" (Warner) present nine films on Blu-ray, from 1931 to 2006, and a bonus documentary on DVD, across two box sets. Videodrone's review is here, and you can enter to win a copy of both volumes in a giveaway from MSN and Warner Home Entertainment.
Two of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated films debut on Blu-ray: his gentle and imaginative 1988 masterpiece "My Neighbor Totoro" (Disney) and his 2004 fantasy adventure "Howl's Moving Castle" (Disney). Reviewed on Videodrone here.
"National Lampoon's Vacation: 30th Anniversary Edition" (Warner) offers the holiday road comedy directed by Harold Ramis and written by future youth movie mogul John Hughes. Chevy Chase is the bumbling Dad who takes wife Beverly D’Angelo and kids Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron on a cross country road trip in the family station wagon. Disaster and hilarity ensues. Previously on Blu-ray, the new edition features the supplements of the previous release (cast and director commentary and an introduction by stars Chase and randy Quaid with producer Matty Simmons) plus a new 85-minute documentary.
Two exploitation horrors of the seventies, restored by British genre house Redemption from original 35mm negatives, come stateside. "Cold Eyes of Fear" (Kino Lorber), directed by Enzo G. Castellari, opens like a traditional Italian giallo before it settles into a rather conventional, if intermittently stylish thriller. With hints of voyeurism, homo-eroticism, and corruption, it keeps threatening to use the decadent setting of swinging London for something more ambitious than this simple revenge scheme, though Castellari does deliver on a strong and smartly directed conclusion. Fernando Ray, Frank Wolff, and Karin Schubert star. English dub version only. Blu-ray and DVD.
"The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine" (Kino Lorber), a self-professed example of “nunsploitation” directed by Sergio Grieco, mixes a “Romeo and Juliet” romance with a story inspired by “The Devils of Loudon,” elements of Edgar Allan Poe, an Inquisition setting, and the usual sex and sadism of Italian exploitation horror. The results are neither as lurid as promised nor inspired enough to stand on its dubious dramatic merits. Italian with English subtitles. Blu-ray and DVD.
"Captain America: Collector's Edition" (Shout Factory) presents the 1990 film starring Matt Salinger (son of the late, legendary J.D. Salinger) as the gee-whiz symbol of American World War II pluck, a corny piece of nostalgic pulp with cheap action, cheesy dialogue and a charismatically challenged leading man. It was actually made for the big screen, but thanks to some bad luck with rights issues, the 1990 film was delayed a couple of years and dumped to home video. The Blu-ray presents the widescreen debut of the film on disc (an earlier MOD release was the boxy 1.33:1 Academy Ratio) and includes a new featurette featuring interviews with Matt Salinger and director Albert Pyun.
Also from Shout Factory are a pair of Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack releases of cult horror films making their respective disc debuts. Charles B. Pierce's 1977 "The Town that Dreaded Sundown" (Shout Factory) stars Ben Johnson as a Texas Ranger after a killer in 1946 Texarkana, and this edition features commentary, interviews with co-stars Andrew Prine and Dawn Wells, and the bonus 1979 Charles B. Pierce film "The Evictors" with Vic Morrow and Michael Parks.
"The Burning" (Shout Factory), from 1981, is a summer camp slasher movie with early appearances by Fisher Stevens, Jason Alexander, and Holly Hunter, and a screenplay by Harvey and Bob Weinstein. With commentary and interviews.
The spaghetti western "Grand Duel" (Blue Underground) with Lee Van Cleef has been a staple of bargain bin releases for decades. It came out on Blu-ray in a nice edition a couple of months ago from bargain label Mill Creek. Now it arrives on DVD in new edition mastered from the original camera negative and featuring commentary by journalists C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke.
It makes a companion piece to the four-disc collection "Spaghetti Westerns Unchained" (Blue Underground), a repackaging of some of the best Italian westerns of the era, notably the original "Django" (1966), directed by Sergio Corbucci and starring Franco Nero, and "Keoma" (1976), probably the last great spaghetti western, directed by Tarantino fave Enzo G. Castellari and starring Nero, who also stars in "Texas Adios" (1966). The only film without Nero in this set is "Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot" (1967), a terrific revenge western with Tomas Milian. They've all been released before, but this is a well-curated collection with good well-mastered transfers. DVD.
"Lego Batman: The Movie" (Warner) is… well, an animated superhero film based on the video game featuring Lego versions of comic book superheroes. Blu-ray and DVD, with a featurette and bonus cartoons.
Plus 'Saving Hope,' 'Aquabats,' more 'Spy' form Britain, and more
"True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season" (HBO) is the final season of HBO's gothic pulp vampire melodrama supervised by Alan Ball, and he goes for broke with the most extreme season yet. Meanwhile, "Teen Wolf: Season 2" (Fox), MTV's entry in the supernatural teenager series, is turning out to be one of the best of the genre and a much more interesting and engaging series. Both reviewed on Videodrone here.
"Perception: The Complete First Season" (ABC) is TNT's latest attempt at the high-concept detective show with a damaged genius in the lead. In this case, veteran FBI Agent Kate Moretti (Rachael Leigh Cook) recruits her former professor, eccentric neuroscientist Daniel Pierce (Eric McCormack) to help make the connections in challenging cases. His problem, apart from issues of social decorum, is sorting out hallucinations from real life. He's schizophrenic, but the lovable, funny kind that makes good TV, and he refuses the medication that tames the hallucinations because it also dulls his senses. And because he's too attached to his imaginary friend (Kelly Rowan), who serves as his sounding board while he bats around ideas and offers advice that he knows he should follow, but doesn't.
Specifics aside, it plays out ideas we've seen a lot on network and cable shows alike, with his hallucinations becoming sidekicks or cyphers for Psychological Issues That Must Be Confronted, a gimmick that is only really interesting when starts to dismiss odd real life occurrences as just more visions. And while it's amiable enough, with an easy chemistry between McCormack and Cook (hey, do you think there's a romance brewing here?), it doesn't offer much in the way of distinctive mysteries, unique characters, or unusual situations. At least not within the genre. 10 episodes on two discs, DVD.
"Spy: Series 2" (BFS) is the second season of the hilarious British comedy about a sad-sack single dad (Darren Boyd) who inadvertently gets recruited by MI-5 by the easily excitable and distracted Robert Lindsay. All Boyd wants to do is impress his snooty son, but of course he has to keep his job a secret. Even when he brings the kid along for career day. Yet he's strangely adept at this kind of work. It's just the rest of it -- sustaining personal relationships, avoiding inappropriate remarks, impressing an intellectually precocious son -- that eludes him. The funniest British import I've seen in years. 11 episodes (including the 2012 Christmas episode) on two discs, DVD.
"Saving Hope: The Complete First Season" (eOne) stars Erica Durance as a surgeon whose fiancée (Michael Shanks) falls into a coma and haunts the hospital hallways, where he meets the spirits of dead patients. The Canadian medical show-turned-supernatural drama played stateside on NBC, where it lasted 11 episodes, but it's got a second season coming up on Canada. 13 episodes on DVD, including two episodes that never aired, plus interviews with the stars and behind-the-scenes footage.
"The Aquabats Super Show: Season One" (Shout! Factory) is a kid's show featuring "the world's first musical crime-fighting super group," a rock band on a never-ending quest to battle evil through music, super powers, and comedy. The series, which plays on Hub, features live-action skits, animated sequences, and musical numbers. 13 episodes on two discs, plus the original pilot and commentary on multiple episodes. DVD.
"Laverne and Shirley: The Sixth Season" (Paramount) features 22 episodes on three discs of the nostalgic sitcom starring Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams as two girls in Milwaukee. DVD, with gag reel.
Two box sets, one classic and one contemporary, of gangster movie landmarks
Back in the thirties, as sound remade the movie industry, Warner Bros. blasted into the new decade as the studio of scrappy, snappy, street-smart movies, full of wise-cracking reporters, blue-collar hustlers, and hard-luck guys and dolls struggling to get by in the hard times of the depression. They were also the godfathers of the gangster movie, launching the genre and its two most famous icons with early sound movie landmarks "Little Caesar" (1931) with Edward G. Robinson and "The Public Enemy" (1931) with James Cagney.
Both of those films debut on Blu-ray this week in "Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics" (Warner), which arrives with its companion set "Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Contemporary" (Warner). Together they present nine films on Blu-ray, from 1931 to 2006, and a bonus documentary on DVD.
"Classics" is the more exciting of the two releases, as the four landmark gangster movies from Warner Bros. all make their respective Blu-ray debuts this week (they also debut in individual volumes on Blu-ray). Along with "Little Caesar" (1931), which established the classic rise-and-fall arc of the gangster thriller, and "The Public Enemy" (1931), which unleashed dynamo Cagney in a star-making turn, is "The Petrified Forest" (1936), which gave supporting player Humphrey Bogart his breakthrough role as a mad dog of a fugitive killer, and "White Heat" (1949), with Cagney in an explosive performance as the most psychotic gangster in classic cinema: “Made it, ma. Top of the world!”
All four films also debut in individual volumes on Blu-ray include the commentary tracks, featurettes, archival shorts, and other supplements from the earlier DVD releases, and the set includes the bonus documentary "Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film" on DVD.
All of these films are newly mastered in 1080p from the best elements available for their Blu-ray debut. In the case of "Little Caesar," which was produced in 1930, they are not in top shape and the disc shows the damage of its surviving elements, but as with other preserved classics, the sharpness and detail of the image helps us see "through" the damage to the film below. The other films are in better condition, with "White Heat" being both the best film and the best looking disc in the set. As directed by Raoul Walsh, it’s white hot and Cagney gives a blindingly unhinged performance as an emotionally unstable and mentally unbalanced Cody Jarrett, putting his dancer’s moves to work in a riveting physical performance.
See clips of Cagney in "The Public Enemy" and "White Heat" below.
"Contemporary" collects five films that have previously been released on Blu-ray, including three by Martin Scorsese: "Mean Streets" (1973), the director's first great film and perhaps the most personal gangster movie ever made; the violent, dynamic, and exhilarating "Goodfellas" (1990), a stylistic tour-de-force which has lost none of its visceral charge or cinematic ecstasy in the twenty-some years since its release; and "The Departed" (2006), which earned Scorsese his first Academy Award for Best Director. Scorsese's gangster films offer a vibrant alternative to the "Godfather" films, suggesting both the glamor of gang life and the lurid, mercenary reality of the life, and his filmmaking captures the energy of the violent life, as well as the jittery paranoia.
Brian De Palma's "The Untouchables" (1987) was actually a Paramount production and takes a more operatic approach to the classic gangster movie, while Michael Mann's "Heat" (1995) is a thoroughly modern crime thriller of professional heist crew headed by Robert De Niro and Al Pacino as an obsessed cop on their trail. As mentioned, they have all been released on Blu-ray before and this release includes the supplements from the previous Blu-ray releases: commentary tracks, featurettes, and more.
Both sets collect the five discs in a compact cast with hinged trays (my preferred storage option) in a sturdy box with an accompanying booklet with stills and (very brief) notes on the films.
Two films clips are after the jump. Click on "More" below…
Plus 'Beautiful Creatures,' 'The ABCs of Death,' 'Yossi' from Israel, and the Rolling Stones
"Side Effects" (Universal), medical drama-turned-psychological thriller with Jude Law and Rooney Mara, is ostensibly the last feature film from Steven Soderbergh, and it's a pretty sharp piece of filmmaking. Videodrone's review is here.
"The Last Stand" (Lionsgate) – Always on the look-out for new flavors for its studio projects, Hollywood is now drafting directors from South Korea's lively action and crime thriller industry and "The Last Stand" is the first out of the gate. Designed as a come-back for Arnold Schwarzenegger, it's also the American debut of Korean director Kim Jee-woon, who made a reputation with dark horrors like "I Saw the Devil" and "A Tale of Two Sisters" but hit it big with the wild, wild Eastern take on old west goofiness, "The Good, the Bad, and the Weird."
The buoyant energy of that colorful lark is conspicuously absent in this thoroughly conventional frontier showdown, which pits border town sheriff Schwarzenegger and his crew against a Mexican drug lord (Eduardo Noriega) on a fast car getaway with a small army of soldiers clearing the roads with maximum collateral damage. Kim does create an amiable camaraderie within the group (even with Johnny Knoxville's comic relief overkill) but fails to add any memorable invention to an otherwise familiar shoot 'em up / blow 'em up / smash and crash action movie. More from MSN film critic Glenn Kenny.
Blu-ray and DVD, with four featurettes and deleted and extended scenes. The Blu-ray includes a digital copy of the film for portable media players and an UltraViolet digital copy for download and instant streaming. Also On Demand and at Redbox.
"Parker" (Sony) stars Jason Statham as the brutal anti-hero of the crime novels of Richard Stark (a pseudonym for Donald Westlake). He's not the first to take the role (Lee Marvin was, in "Point Blank") but he is the first to take name from the books, even if he is a Brit in an American role, and MSN film critic Glenn Kenny recommends the film as "not only a very good vehicle for the star; it's a pretty damn good crime movie overall."
"Director Taylor Hackford's certainly had his ups and downs but he always seems energized when working with down-and-dirty material. He doesn't shy away from the material's less reputable aspects…. Statham stomps and chomps through all his action scenes with spectacular vigor while never losing his cool, and Jennifer Lopez, believe it or not, is better than credible as his skeptical and then smitten eventual accomplice." Michael Chiklis
Blu-ray and DVD, with director commentary and two featurettes, plus an UltraViolet digital copy for download and instant streaming. The Blu-ray also includes two additional featurettes. Also On Demand and at Redbox.
"Beautiful Creatures" (Warner) is the latest attempt to launch a new franchise of teen romance with a supernatural setting, with Alice Englert as the new girl in town with magical powers and Alden Ehrenreich as the local boy entwined with her fate. "Just as the "Twilight" series rejiggered (rather idiotically, if you ask me) the mythologies of vampires and werewolves and other supernatural favorites, so does "Beautiful Creatures" -- written and directed by Richard LaGravenese from the first novel in a series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl -- give us a new vision of witchery that is more playful, coherent and intelligent," explains MSN film critic Glenn Kenny. "If you're thinking a deep-fried, more hormonally charged Harry Potter, that's not it, but it's close to the intention at least." Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, and Emma Thompson provide the adult supervision here.
Blu-ray and DVD, with deleted scenes. Exclusive to the Blu-ray are six short featurettes, plus an UltraViolet digital copy for download and instant streaming. Also On Demand.
"Perfectly agreeable thanks to the charms and charisma of its three stars, "Stand Up Guys" (Lionsgate) promises buckets of fun and a raucous team-up between Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin," writes MSN film critic James Rocchi. "The fact is, that bill of sale isn't quite matched by the contents of the movie, but the enterprise is light and slight enough to mean that you can enjoy watching the three lead actors playing sunset-years tough guys out for one last spree before the bill has to be paid."
Blu-ray and DVD, with director commentary, three featurettes, and deleted scenes. The Blu-ray also includes an UltraViolet digital copy for download and instant streaming. Also at Redbox.
Indies and oddities:
"The ABCs of Death" (Magnet) is an anthology horror film with a short piece for every letter of the alphabet and an impressive line-up 27 directors from around the world, including Jason Eisener ("Hobo with a Shotgun"), Xavier Gens ("Frontier(s)"), Jorge Michel Grau ("We Are What We Are"), Nacho Vigalondo ("Extraterrestrial"), Ti West ("The Innkeepers"), Ben Wheatley ("The Kill List"), and the team of Bruno Forzani & Hélène Cattet ("Amer"). "With such a wide pool of talent and so many different themes and plots covered, "The ABCs of Death" unquestionably has something to offer for every horror fan (even as they snooze through the film's tamer segments)," offers MSN critic Kate Erbland. This is unrated and definitely for mature audiences.
Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary, numerous featurettes, deleted scenes, and other supplements. The Blu-ray features more supplements and there's also a Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack.
"The Rolling Stones: Crossfire Hurricane" (Eagle Rock) premiered on HBO in 2012, but the nearly two-hour documentary is a feature film-worthy tour through their history, through a rich array of archival clips and counterpoint with new interviews by the band. With primary focus on their dramatic sixties and seventies, the film, in the words of Time Magazine TV critic James Poniewozik, "uses documentary outtake footage from decades of earlier films to spin a new take on that trip, paralleling the Stones as news story (the drug busts, Brian Jones’ death, Altamont) to their development as artists, aiming to show how one was inseparable from the other." Bret Morgen directs and the Blu-ray and DVD editions feature bonus performances by the band from concert and TV appearances in 1964 and 1965.
'Totoro' and 'Howl's Moving Castle debut of Blu-ray
Director, artist, producer, and animation visionary Hayao Miyaziki is much more than Japan’s Walt Disney. Miyazaki is an original with an epic vision, an animist mythology, an environmentally-conscious subtext, and a dedication to the art of hand-drawn animation maintained in the face of the digital revolution. As both director and producer (through his Studio Ghibli), Miyazaki believed that children deserved stories with depth and emotional complexity as well as imagination and excitement, and that's what he delivered in film after film. Two of his greatest films debut on Blu-ray this week: "My Neighbor Totoro" (1988) and "Howl's Moving Castle" (2004).
"My Neighbor Totoro" (Disney), a gentle film of magic and imagination in a time of childhood anxiety, is Miyazaki's first genuine masterpiece. Released in 1988, it's a darling story of two young sisters befriended by a forest spirits (among them a friendly, perhaps imaginary, giant blue hedgehog who introduces them to the wonders of nature) one magical summer. While the fantasy and whimsy captures the playful imagination of children, a powerful undercurrent of emotional crisis grounds their experience: their infirm mother is recuperating from some unexplained illness in a local hospital. Rarely has there been such a tender and respectful exploration of the emotions and fears of children, and never in such a delightful flight of fantastical adventure and wonder. A masterpiece of modern animated fantasy made for children and adults alike.
HBO's vampires are top disc sellers, but MTV's wolves deliver a better show
"True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season" (HBO), HBO's gothic pulp vampire melodrama, goes for broke with the most extreme season yet: more blood, more conspiracies, more transformations, and way more internal wars within and between the species.
Bill and Eric (Stephen Moyer and Alexander Skarsgård) get called before the Vampire Authority, a cult-like vampire cabal (led by guest star Christopher Meloni) with an insidious plot that involves the vampire goddess Lilith and hallucinogen-fueled trips. The werewolf pack gets a scruffy new alpha who makes them the V-addicted lapdogs of the vampires. War vet Terry (Todd Lowe) is pursued by a fire demon. Heartbroken Hoyt (Jim Parrack) joins an anti-vamp hate group. Jason keeps screwing himself into more trouble. The Fey… will, they just keep partying on in their alternate dimension nightclub. And, how yeah, Tara is a vampire and she's pretty pissed about it.
Oh Sookie! Our ostensible heroine (Anna Paquin) seems just a bystander anymore, the all-purpose damsel in distress for a growing number of protectors (add Joe Manganiello's wolfman Alcide to the ranks). It's all pretty silly and feels rudderless, like a supernatural soap opera tossing everything into the mix for shock value and exploitation spectacle (blood and sex: the pay-cable formula!). It's the final season with series creator Alan Ball (who took the characters from Charlaine Harris' books and went his own way with them) and seems out of ideas. Hard to tell if things will get better with the next season, but there are a lot of fans who figure any change has got to be an improvement at this point.
The show still has passionate followers addicted to the supernatural soap opera and the discs remains TV bestsellers. That's fine, but for those less sanguine about the changes in the show, might I suggest taking a look at "Teen Wolf: Season 2" (Fox).
MTV's entry in the supernatural teenager series, is turning out to be one of the best of the genre, interesting and engaging and a lot smarter than "True Blood." The first season (available on DVD, Netflix Instant, and VOD) reworked the eighties horror comedy as a coming-of-age drama by way of young adult melodrama for the post-"Buffy" era, with a supernatural Romeo and Juliet story at the center: teen wolf Tyler Posey is in love with new girl Crystal Reed, who just happens to come from a line of werewolf hunters.