This week’s releases include a new beginning for a comic book hero; the precursor to Jesse and Chester’s car-less adventure; a young woman’s rebellion against tradition; a fantastic collection of animated shorts; and a couple of vampire BFFs.
When a storm starts closing in, air traffic controller Malcolm (Mark Hamill) sends one last plane into the sky – but after takeoff, the passengers aboard discover the pilots have been brutally murdered. Suddenly the plane disappears from radar, and one by one, the people aboard turn into dangerous, bloody psychopaths. With time running out, the survivors must unlock the deadly mystery in their midst and find a way to land the plane before their ultimate nightmare is unleashed.
Special features not available. (Entertainment One)
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is an outcast high schooler who was abandoned by his parents as a boy, leaving him to be raised by his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). Like most teenagers, Peter is trying to figure out who he is and how he got to be the person he is today. When Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, he begins a quest to understand his parents' disappearance – leading him directly to Oscorp and the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), his father's former partner. As Spider-Man is set on a collision course with Connors' alter-ego, The Lizard, Peter will make life-altering choices to use his powers and shape his destiny to become a hero.
This reboot of the successful Sam Raimi series focuses on Peter Parker as a teenager, not a hero. As a result the audience watches him struggle with the power of his new abilities, becoming a vigilante before heroism is thrust upon him. As a bullied outcast, he can't resist the opportunity to humiliate the school's worst tormentor. The "great responsibility" aspect of his alter ego comes later. Garfield makes the many aspects of this character believable, from the vulnerable teen to the boy genius to the guy in love to the hero with an obligation. He never falters. Ifans is an interesting villain since you both pity him and despise him – conflicting emotions that he evokes well, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It's also great to introduce audiences to Gwen, Peter's true love played by the always engaging Emma Stone.
Special features include: commentary with director Marc Webb and producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach; deleted scenes; stunt rehearsals; and “The Oscorp Archives,” production art gallery. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Fox Home Entertainment
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Blu-ray)
Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) have spent so much time forming their rock band that they’re flunking history. Ted’s dad threatens to send him to military school if he doesn’t pass. Luckily, Rufus (George Carlin), a guardian angel from the future, has a time-traveling phone booth to take them into the past to learn about the world. Their journey through time turns out to be a blast, but will they learn enough to pass their class and keep their rock band together?
There's something very amusing about a buddy movie featuring two stupid but likeable guys. Though they are never shown to be under the influence of anything but music, the duo act like the ultimate stoners tripping through history. Surprisingly they rarely encounter hostile natives and all the famous figures they aquire mostly accompany them willingly; Billy the Kid is very easygoing about the whole thing and most of them adapt quickly to the 20th century – possibly with the exception of Genghis Khan. Though it's make believe, Beethoven's chance to play to his full potential is quite exciting. Ted's airhead personality has haunted Reeves throughout his career, but that's only because he played it so convincingly. For a movie that revolves around an unfinished history assignment, the audience learns little about the characters they kidnap – except maybe the incorrect pronunciations of their names. But that doesn't take away from the fun.
Special features include: “The Original Bill and Ted: In Conversation with Chris and Ed”; “Air Guitar Tutorial with Bjorn Turoque & The Rockness Monster”; “One Sweet and Sour Chinese Adventure to Go”; radio spots; and the theatrical trailer. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Brave (DVD, 3D Blu-ray and Blu-ray combo pack)
Merida (Kelly Macdonald) has always been a free spirit who couldn't wait to get back to being a tomboy after her princess training. A trait her father, Fergus (Billy Connolly), nurtured since she was old enough to hold a bow and arrow, and one her mother, Elinor (Emma Thompson), tried desperately to eradicate. However, tradition dictates that at 16 Merida is to be promised to the eldest son of the other three tribes who can best the other suitors in a competition. Her refusal to participate creates a significant rift with her mother, only made worse by consulting with a witch (Julie Walters). In an attempt to reclaim her future, Merida unwittingly turns her mother into a giant bear and must figure out how to reverse the spell before it becomes impossible to do so.
Pixar has created a strong female character that young girls can finally relate to and admire – and she’s not just a slightly altered version of the Disney princess mold. The first half of the film, pre-mama bear, is the strongest. The passion from all the characters is captivating. Merida is a fiery little redhead with adamant convictions about her own future and a stubborn streak that will see that it happens her way. Fergus is an exceptional king, remarkable storyteller and loving father (portrayed in a way that only Connolly could deliver). Elinor is also very caring, but unwilling to divert from traditions in spite of the protests of her loved ones. Their interactions are funny, heartfelt and a real draw into the story world. The animation is beyond impressive. Pixar's attention to detail is one of the key elements that make their films exceptional. Merida's hair flows wildly around her face, flying in the wind behind her and paralleling her untamed spirit. The bear version of Elinor is stunning in the way her weight realistically shifts with every step and her gestures have an authentic bear-like quality.
Special features include: filmmaker commentary; an alternate opening; extended scenes; “The Legend of Morda”; Brave Old World”; “Merida & Elinor”; “Bears”; “Brawl in the Hall”; “Wonder Moss”; “Magic”; “Clan Pixar”; “Once Upon a Scene”; “Fallen Warriors”; “Dirty Hairy People”; “It is English... Sort of”; “Angus”; “The Tapestry”; promotional pieces; art gallery; and digital copy of the film. (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
Lawrence of Arabia (Blu-ray)
David Lean's biography of the enigmatic T. E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) paints a complex portrait of the desert-loving Englishman who united Arab tribes in a battle against the Ottoman Turks during World War I.
Special features not available. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
A coat-check attendant in a bar decides to bring an unclaimed coat back to its owner, but soon finds herself in the middle of a criminal intrigue. A regular at the bar who has long harboured a secret love for the attendant will put his life on the line to help her.
Special features not available. (Entertainment One)
Pixar Shorts Collection: Volume 2 (Blu-ray)
Twelve Disney-Pixar short films are brought together for the first time in this new collection that also features seven rarely screened student films from directors John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter. The short films include: Burn-E; Dug’s Special Mission; George & Aj; Air Mater; Time Travel Mater; Your Friend The Rat; Partly Cloudy; Presto; Day & Night; Hawaiian Vacation; Small Fry; and La Luna.
One of the great things about Pixar shorts is the studio puts the same thought and effort into a short film that they do in a feature. The stories are complete and engaging, starring many of the same characters that have already captured audiences’ hearts and imaginations. Of the twelve shorts, two are each related to Up, Toy Story and Cars. The first film is expanded through both of the associated shorts, while the latter two have fun with beloved characters, including a romantic vacation for Ken and Barbie and Mater’s tall tales. The four-legged stars of Ratatouille trace the history of the rat and their contributions to society. But even those featuring unknown characters prove as engaging as the more familiar stories: the battered stork is touching; the selfish magician is hilarious; the competing times of day are engaging; and the story of the star sweepers is beautiful. The student films are less polished, but show the directors’ talent for storytelling. Nitemare especially stands out from the others as a short that could precede a Pixar movie.
Special features include: optional director commentary on all shorts; and introductions to all the student films. (Disney Pixar Home Entertainment)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Goody (Alicia Silverstone) and Stacy (Krysten Ritter) are addicted to the night life, clubbing, hooking up and always looking for the next thrill, all the while keeping a big secret – they happen to be modern-day vampires. But even with lifetimes of dating experience behind them, the duo realizes they still have a lot to learn about love when Stacy unexpectedly falls for the son of a vampire hunter (Dan Stevens), and Goody runs into the man of her dreams (Richard Lewis) from decades earlier. With their destinies at stake, the girls are faced with a difficult choice: give up their eternal youth for a chance at love, or continue to live their uncomplicated fabulously single lives forever.
A new movie from writer/director Amy Heckerling starring Alicia Silverstone cannot avoid comparisons to the ‘90s teen classic, Clueless. They don’t speak in Valley slang, but fashion is important to their ability to fit in. Like many “older” women, Goody lies about her age. Stacy, on the other hand, is still reveling in the “forever young” aspect of her new existence. Even though the girls’ relationship is supportive and mature, the first half of this picture is especially shallow. But they slowly evolve into slightly more complex beings that attend group sessions, go to night school and want to fall in love. This is one of those chick flicks that is fun, but still has something to offer if you want to dig a little a deeper. Even if lightheartedly, it addresses issues of aging, illness, late-in-life motherhood and difficult in-laws. Though Sigourney Weaver’s resurrection scene is just goofy.
There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
The Watch (Blu-ray)
There’s trouble brewing in peaceful Glenview, Ohio. That’s why four civic-minded citizens (Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade), armed with flashlights, walkie-talkies and spiffy new jackets, have teamed up to safeguard their community. But the guys find more than they bargained for when they uncover an alien plot to destroy Earth. Now these bumbling heroes are Glenview’s only chance to save the neighborhood — and the world — from annihilation.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Alien Invasions & You”; “Casting the Alien”; Jonah’s alternate takes; “Watchmakers”; gag reel; theatrical trailer; and digital copy of the film. (Fox Home Entertainment)