This week’s releases include a new start for a resilient actor; an action spectacle; another Tim Burton stop-motion masterpiece; and a BBC reunion.
Fox Home Entertainment
30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Blu-ray)
When a young family, who can’t seem to stop filming themselves, moves into a house that turns out to be haunted, they meet up with a host of creepy characters -- including a horny vampire-hunting president who wants to emancipate their dragon-tattooed daughter. With help from the hysterically high-energy “Ghost Brothers” the family sets out to solve the mystery of the haunted house.
Even if you’re not a fan of the Scary Movie franchise launched by the Wayans Brothers, you have to admit they cleverly sewed together the films they spoofed. Conversely, the cleverest element of this movie is its title. Writer/director Craig Moss fails miserably in trying to recreate the parody phenomenon. The funniest skit involves a slamming door, which doesn’t say much for the script. At times it feels as if it’s trying too hard, and at other times not hard enough. The Ghost Brothers are supposed to provide the slapstick part of the picture, but they’re not very amusing spending most of their time on screen screaming and running around in circles.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Anger Management: Season One (DVD)
Charlie Goodson (Charlie Sheen) is a former baseball player. In his final game, he gave himself a career-ending injury when he tried to snap a bat over his leg in anger. He becomes an anger management therapist and runs a successful private practice. His life is complicated by an ex-wife (Shawnee Smith) and a teenage daughter (Daniela Bobadilla) who has obsessive-compulsive disorder.
When Sheen was fired by CBS and went on to what was perceived as a public meltdown, it was tough to imagine him pulling it together enough to get back on top. Then his agreement to star on Anger Management was announced and it was time to see if he still had what it takes. Watching the Ashton Kutcher seasons of Two and a Half Men and the inaugural season of this series, something became very clear: Sheen really is a winner and he took the funny with him when he left. From threatening his ex-wife's new boyfriend to being friends-with-benefits with his best friend and therapist (Selma Blair) to leading a group of comedic and hopeless personalities through group therapy that includes a session of sleep deprivation, Charlie is entertaining. Blair and Sheen play off of each other well in all situations. His therapy group is diverse and deems no subject too controversial, from race to age to relationships to homosexuality to text messaging – they have an opinion about it all.
Special features include: “Charlie’s Baby,” a new interview with Sheen; “Behind the Couch: Meet Charlie’s Patients”; and “Anger Mismanagement” gags. (Alliance Films)
Becky (Dreama Walker) and Sandra (Ann Dowd) aren't the best of friends. Sandra is a middle-aged manager at a fast-food restaurant; Becky is a teenaged counter girl who really needs the job. One stressful day a police officer calls accusing Becky of stealing money from a customer's purse, which she vehemently denies. Sandra, overwhelmed by her managerial responsibilities, complies with the officer's orders to detain Becky. This choice begins a nightmare that tragically blurs the lines between expedience and prudence, legality and reason.
There is so much wrong with the premise of this picture – and the scariest part is it’s based on true events. The viewer is repeatedly forced to ask (or scream) at the screen, “WHY?!” These people cross so many boundaries in an attempt to please a faceless voice on the phone, it’s baffling. Even though the situation is suspicious from the start, no one thinks to confirm or question the accusations or identity of the fake police officer. It says something for the actors in the film that they could incite such anger and frustration, while still appearing that gullible. They pull you into the story, successfully stirring a variety of emotions in the audience and creating a disturbing film experience.
Special features not available. (Entertainment One)
The America of the post-apocalyptic future is an irradiated wasteland, a vast, ultra-violent world where criminals control the mean city streets. Ultimate law enforcers like Dredd (Karl Urban) and his new partner, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), are Judges – the only force battling for justice. Dispatched by the central authority, the Judges' target is Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), a ruthless boss bent on expanding her criminal empire through sales of Slo-Mo, a dangerous reality-altering drug. With Dredd calling the shots, the two Judges declare full-scale war on crime in this unrelenting and brutal thrill ride.
In the '90s, the futuristic lawman was given the big screen treatment with Sylvester Stallone portraying Judge Dredd. But it was not a loyal adaptation of the comic or a very good movie. Fans are given some redemption with this film. In the simplest terms, this is the American version of The Raid. Grounded in a tall apartment populated by criminals, Dredd makes his way through, leaving a trail of dead or seriously injured bad guys. But the exceptional martial arts sequences that made the Asian picture a resounding success is replaced by big explosions. Urban's Dredd is a more accurate embodiment of the comic book character with little dialogue and deliberate actions. Never seen without his helmet, the actor is forced to perform without using one of his key assets: his eyes. Urban makes the best of his remaining features, deepening his voice (not quite to a Batman-depth) and portraying a by-any-means-necessary cop empowered by his sense of right.
Special features include: “Dredd” featurette; “Mega-City Masters: 35 Years of ‘Judge Dredd’”; “Day of Chaos: The Visual Effects of ‘Dredd 3D’”; “Welcome to Peach Trees”; “Dredd’s Gear”; “The 3rd Dimension”; and ‘Dredd’ Motion Comic Prequel. (Alliance Films)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Driving Miss Daisy (Blu-ray)
This is the touching tale of an unusual quarter-century friendship between an eccentric elderly Southern Jewish matron (Jessica Tandy) and her loyal, black chauffeur (Morgan Freeman).
Special features not available. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Episodes: The Complete First and Second Seasons (DVD)
Husband and wife writing team Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig) can't wait to bring their successful British television series across the pond to make it big in America. But in true Hollywood fashion, it quickly becomes a laughable, clichéd sitcom – starring none other than Matt LeBlanc (Matt LeBlanc). Matt not only messes with their beloved show, he rocks the foundation of their relationship. So now, even if they survive the absurdity of show business, their marriage may not survive Matt LeBlanc.
This is a very different role from LeBlanc’s character on the long-running Friends. He’s still a player, but he’s cleverer and far more manipulative. He uses his star power to get what he wants, and when that doesn’t work he plays dirty. It’s somewhat difficult at first to separate Matt from Joey, but the two are so different it becomes easy quickly. It’s both funny and sad to witness Sean and Beverly’s dreams destroyed by Hollywood. They’re forced to mold their baby in someone else’s image when they bring it to America no matter how much they hate the idea. It’s often ridiculous the concessions they make to maintain some sense of control of the project, but it keeps them in the writers’ chairs.
Special features include: biographies. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Frankenweenie (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life—with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor’s fellow students, teachers and the entire town learn that getting a new ‘leash on life’ can be monstrous.
The story of a boy and his dog is one of the simplest that can be told. It centres on love and friendship, and demonstrates a loyalty rarely found elsewhere in life. The film is based on a 1984 short film by Burton that was expanded into a feature by his oft co-conspirator, John August. Keeping the story uncomplicated, they avoid adding too many subplots and retain focus on the main story. This allows for excellent character development and well explored arcs. In a classroom filled with strange children, Burton once again gives the weird kids a place to belong. Science is not the enemy in this film; it's a means with no good or bad except that which is applied by the user. The science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski, is a Vincent Price-type character portrayed perfectly by Martin Landau. The monstrous creations each pay homage to a movie monster equivalent, while many other scenes are adapted directly from the Frankenstein legend.
Special features include: “Captain Sparky vs The Flying Saucers”; “Miniatures in Motion: Bringing ‘Frankenweenie’ To Life”; “’Frankenweenie’ Touring Exhibit”; “Frankenweenie” (original live-action short); and “Pet Sematary” music video performed by Plain White T’s. (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
Hit & Run (DVD)
Charlie Bronson (Dax Shepard) is a nice guy with a questionable past who risks everything when he busts out of the witness protection program to deliver his fiancée (Kristen Bell) to Los Angeles to seize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Their road trip grows awkwardly complicated, when they are chased by the feds (led by Tom Arnold) and increasingly dangerous, when Charlie's former pals, a band of gangsters (led by Bradley Cooper), enter the fray.
It's not surprising, based on the on-screen chemistry, that Shepard and Bell are a real-life couple. They just click. The flow of dialogue between them is effortless and when they look at each other their feelings appear genuine. Unfortunately, their relationship is the best part of the film. The narrative simply plateaus, making it rather dull. There's anticipation for something significant to occur that is never fulfilled. Actors – including a well-disguised Cooper and klutzy Arnold – go through the motions of the script, performing their parts well but never doing anything noteworthy. Even the car chase is boring as they drive around in circles in an abandoned airfield. Shepard is a charming, likeable actor, but his sophomore foray behind the camera is better (and easily) forgotten.
Special features include: deleted scenes. (Alliance Films)
House at the End of the Street (Blu-ray)
A newly divorced mom (Elisabeth Shue) and her daughter (Jennifer Lawrence) move to the suburbs for a fresh start. But their hopes turn to horror when they meet Ryan (Max Thieriot), the sole survivor of a grisly family murder that took place next door.
This could have been a decent, simple, slasher flick about a parent-murdering girl escaped and wreaking havoc on a small town. Instead, it's constantly trying to be more by adding psychological complications, which are relatively predictable if you’re paying attention. Even though Lawrence is adequate in the role, she's almost too strong of a young woman to be made that vulnerable. The shift from Hunger Games' warrior to killer's victim is quite unsuccessful. Nonetheless, it acts out all the horror movie "don'ts," from inspecting a noise outside to running into danger without a weapon to not permanently stopping the killer when given the opportunity.
Special features not available. (Alliance Films)
BBC Home Entertainment
The Hour 2 (Blu-ray)
It’s been a year since ‘The Hour’ was unceremoniously taken off air for the program’s controversial interview with Lord Elms, and much has changed. Freddie (Ben Whishaw) was fired and left to go travelling. Bel (Romola Garai) fought to stay and has tried to improve ratings, while keeping Hector (Dominic West) in line as he’s fawned over and sucked deeper into the destructive world of celebrity. With Bel now reporting to the eccentric new Head of News, Randall Brown (Peter Capaldi) and Freddie newly returned from the United States to become co-anchor of ‘The Hour’ to Hector’s dismay, it seems things may be getting back on track… until Hector becomes involved in a scandal that could destroy his marriage and his career. While helping Hector clear his name, Bel and Freddie uncover a growing vice racket in the heart of London, shrouded by backroom deals and military corruption.
Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette. (BBC Home Entertainment)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Now is Good (DVD)
Given just a few months to live, Tessa (Dakota Fanning) compiles a list of "things to do before I die." Released from the constraints of normal conventions, Tessa seeks out new experiences to make her feel as alive as possible before she dies. Along the way, Tessa's relationships with her parents and friends must all be resolved before her time runs out.
Special features include: making-of featurette; and three deleted scenes. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
BBC Home Entertainment
Red Dwarf X (Blu-ray)
The most inept band of space travelers ever to roam the interstellar highway return with an all-new season of misadventures. Reunited are the much loved original cast of Rimmer (Chris Barrie), Lister (Craig Charles), Cat (Danny John-Jules) and Kryten (Robert Llewellyn). The brand new series, written and directed by Doug Naylor, begins with the Dwarfers mining ship still creaking though the wastelands of unchartered deep space, but the posse soon stumbles upon the mysteriously abandoned SS Trojan. As they inspect the ship, Rimmer receives an SOS distress call from an old foe and is suddenly faced with the dilemma of his life.
The series seems to pick up right where it left off. For viewers unfamiliar with the show, this can seem a little overwhelming. But that fades quickly as the comedy takes centre stage. The characters are funny whether or not you know their histories, and by the end of the first episode you’re familiar with their personalities. Cat and Kryten are constantly spouting one-liners, though they’re not consistently or equally funny. Lister is a hilarious oddball that often debates himself since he is his own father. And even though they are in space, the show revolves around their interactions on the ship rather than completing specific interstellar missions as most other intergalactic shows.
Special features include: commentary; deleted scenes; all-new exclusive documentary; and outtakes. (BBC Home Entertainment)