The New Release Rack: 'Arbitrage,' a cappella, and Eastwood
The last burst of 2012 discs includes 'Trouble With the Curve,' 'Pitch Perfect,' 'Red Hook Summer,' 'Sleepwalk With Me,' and many more
"Premium Rush" (Sony) sends Joseph Gordon-Levitt zooming through the streets of New York as a bike messenger with a valuable package and a corrupt cop (Michael Shannon) on his tail. "Resident Evil: Retribution" (Sony), the fifth installment in the sci-fi franchise, sends Milla Jovovich back into battle with viral zombies and weaponized clones in a live-action video game arena. Both available Friday, December 21. Videodrone reviews both here.
"Pitch Perfect" (Universal), a small-scale drama set in the collegiate world of competitive a cappella groups, stars Anna Kendrick as a college freshman and an aspiring music producer who joins the campus all-girls singing group and introduces new ideas into their traditional repertoire. The film, with co-stars Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, and Rebel Wilson, became one of the sleeper success stories of the year. MSN film critic Glenn Kenny complains that "it never ends up being anything like a fully realized version of any of the movies it's lifting its jokes and/or tones from."
Blu-ray and DVD, with two commentary tracks (one by director Jason Moore with producers Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman, one by producer Paul Brooks), a featurette, deleted and extended scenes, and a "Line-O-Rama" montage of ad-libs. The Blu-ray includes more featurettes plus a bonus DVD, a digital copy of the film for portable media players, and an UltraViolet digital copy for instant streaming.
"Arbitrage" (Lionsgate), a drama set in the culture of corporate trading and financial misbehavior, stars Richard Gere in one of his best performances as a CEO who puts his company and family in jeopardy with his dealings. "The feature-length debut of Nicholas Jarecki, who directed the documentary "The Outsider" about James Toback, "Arbitrage" is clean, lean and mean," praises MSN film critic James Rocchi. "Jarecki's film has a great performance at its center, to be sure, but it also shows how the financial crisis -- and the ongoing crisis represented by deregulated finance as usual -- have already sent chill and ugly winds crashing through the lives of rich and poor alike." Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, and Laetitia Casta co-star.
Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary by director Nicholas Jarecki, deleted scenes with optional director commentary, and two featurettes. Available Friday, December 21.
"Trouble With the Curve" (Warner) stars Clint Eastwood (who produces but doesn't direct this time) as a crusty old baseball scout losing his eyesight and Amy Adams as his grown daughter, who agrees to be his eyes for one last scouting season. Justin Timberlake co-stars as a hot pitching prospect. "The Eastwood/Adams interplay is absolutely great, laugh-out-loud funny a lot of the time and quietly moving when it needs to be," writes MSN film critic Glenn Kenny. "Timberlake, too, is incredibly winning, bringing a relaxed charm and an inborn sanity to a guy who has seen all his dreams go down in flames and is still making the best of things."
Blu-ray and DVD, with the featurette "For the Love of the Game" and an UltraViolet digital copy for download and instant streaming. The Blu-ray has an additional featurette. Also On Demand. Available Friday, December 21.
"Total Recall" (Sony), a remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger science fiction thriller from "Underworld" director Len Wiseman, borrows plenty of visual ideas from "Blade Runner" and "Minority Report," but for all the momentum and screen-filling special effects, it's a thin story with no ideas behind the spectacle. Colin Farrell stars with Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, and Bryan Cranston (wasted in a supporting role as a corrupt politician). More from MSN film critic James Rocchi here.
Blu-ray and DVD, with the "Total Recall Insight Mode" (a picture-in-picture mode with behind-the-scenes footage and featurettes) and two featurettes. The Blu-ray offers an extended Director's Cut (20 minutes of additional footage, including an alternate ending), director commentary, an additional featurette, and pre-visualization versions of five sequences, plus an UltraViolet digital copy for download and instant streaming. Also On Demand and at Redbox.
Spike Lee returns to Brooklyn with "Red Hook Summer" (Image), a story of a middle class Atlanta kid spending the summer with his religious grandfather, which is also a return to his low budget roots: a "raw, seemingly minimally staged, New York moviemaking, in the mode of his early Brooklyn-shot-and-set feature "She's Gotta Have It"," explains MSN film critic Glenn Kenny. Blu-ray and DVD, with director commentary and a featurette. Also at Redbox.
In "Sleepwalk With Me" (MPI), comedian Mike Birbiglia expands his autobiographical off-Broadway show / "This American Life" radio piece into a feature film, to play out his anxieties, sleepwalking issues, and droll comic asides on the big screen. Lauren Ambrose co-stars and "This American Life" co-produces. Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary by Birbiglia and co-screenwriter/co-producer Ira Glass, and audience Q&A (moderated by Joss Whedon), featurettes and outtakes. Reviews here.
"Liberal Arts" (MPI) is a romantic comedy starring writer / director Josh Radnor (of "How I Met My Mother") as a college advisor who falls for a beautiful young student (Elizabeth Olsen) and gets pulled back into the joys of university life. MSN film critic Kat Murphy describes the film as "so sweet and safe an undertaking, it's like getting baptized in warm bathwater." Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, Zac Efron, and Elizabeth Reaser co-star. Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary, a featurette, and deleted scenes.
"Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet" (Kino Lorber) is a documentary profile of the rock star diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease at age 19 and 22 years later, unable to move or speak, continues to make music with technology controlled by his eyes. DVD only, with extended interviews and archival performances. Reviews here.
"Our Beloved Month of August" (Cinema Guild) is a pleasantly meandering melding of documentary and fiction set during the summer celebrations in the mountains of Portugal. What begins as a non-fiction piece on the music and culture of the region slips into a self-aware conversation about filmmaking while a story emerges from the test footage and screen tests, with the locals taking the roles on a family melodrama. Which only makes the line between fiction and actuality all the more smudged. ""Our Beloved Month" is a film in search of its genre, rather than its subject matter," writes Sight and Sound film critic Jonathan Romney. "As much as a documentary or a drama, it is also a musical, its songs no less its true subject than the real and fictional people we meet."
In Portuguese with English subtitles. DVD only, with three bonus short films by Miguel Gomes ("31 / Thirty-One Means Trouble," 2001, "Kalkitos," 2002, and "Canticle of All Creatures," 2010) and the companion short "Carnival: Looking for Paulo 'Miller'."
The drama "Hermano" (Music Box), about two Venezuelan boys raised as brothers and banking on soccer as a way out of their slums of Caracas, is the official Venezuelan Oscar entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category. DVD, with director commentary and interview. Reviews here.
"Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days" (Fox), the third film based on the kids books by Jeff Kinney, finds Greg (Zachary Gordon) still trying to impress the world , to generally humiliating ends. "Not to get all judgmental or anything, but this wimpy kid also struck me as a bit of a twerp," complains MSN film critic Glenn Kenny. Blu-ray and DVD, with director commentary, deleted scenes, the bonus animated short "Class Clown," and a gag reel. The Blu-ray also features an extra featurette, a bonus DVD, a digital copy of the film for portable media players and an UltraViolet digital copy for download and instant streaming. Also available On Demand.
"The Good Doctor" (Magnolia) stars Orlando Bloom as an ambitious but insecure young doctor who becomes obsessed with a beautiful young patient (Riley Keough). Blu-ray and DVD, with two featurettes. Also at Redbox. Reviews here.
"10 Years" (Anchor Bay) is a high-school reunion drama with an impressive cast: Channing Tatum, Rosario Dawson, Ron Livingston, Justin Long, Ari Graynor, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Kate Mara, Max Minghella, Oscar Isaac, among others. DVD only, with deleted scenes. Also available On Demand. Reviews here.
"Fred & Vinnie" (Horizon/Kino) are best friends played by Fred Stoller and Vinnie D'Angelo, whose long-distance friendship is tested when the agoraphobic Vinnie comes to visit Fred. Reviews here