Sunday, March 9, 2014
NEW ON THE SHELF
Matt Damon in “Elysium.”
“ELYSIUM,” Matt Damon, Jodie Foster. Having blindsided audiences and critics with the 2009 smash hit “District 9,” writer-director Neill Blomkamp delivers this long-awaited follow-up, another futuristic parable that touches on many of the same issues regarding class warfare and immigration. Damon’s character is saddled with a daunting mission that might bring much-needed equality to those left behind on an overpopulated Earth now run by robots and Elysium, the luxuriant space station where the wealthiest citizens live. Not quite as audacious as “District 9,” but thrilling and thought-provoking throughout. Rated R. Running time: 1:49. Suggested retail price: $30.99; Blu-ray $40.99.
“THE FAMILY,” Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer. There aren’t many adjectives, good or bad, that haven’t been lobbed at director Luc Besson (“The Professional”), but “boring” has never been one of them, and this entertainingly uneven dark comedy is anything but that. A notorious mafia clan forced to relocate to France under the witness relocation program, the Manzonis (led by De Niro and Pfeiffer, comfortable in familiar roles) do their best to fit in. But thankfully for the audience, old habits die hard and there are plenty of nasty yuks to be had watching the Manzonis terrorize their neighbors. It’s Besson-lite, but mean fun all the same. Rated R. Running time: 1:30. Suggested retail price: $29.98; Blu-ray $39.99.
“KICK-ASS 2,” Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz. Somewhat tepidly received sequel amps up the violence and obscenities but can’t quite rekindle the magic, most likely due to the absence of previous director Matthew Vaughn, who managed to leaven the often extreme brutality with genuine wit, in short supply here. Nonetheless, as before, the performances are enjoyable, with Moretz again a delight as the foul-mouthed and deadly Hit Girl, and Jim Carrey a welcome addition as Colonel Stars & Stripes. Includes commentary from Taylor-Johnson, Moretz, Mintz-Plasse and director Jeff Wadlow (“Never Back Down”). Rated R. Running time: 1:43. Suggested retail price: $29.98; Blu-ray $34.98.
“THE LONE RANGER,” Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer. Attempting to resurrect a largely forgotten icon via an enormous budget and the joke-heavy “Pirates of the Caribbean” treatment, director Gore Verbinski and Depp were largely met with confusion and indifference in theaters, but living room audiences looking to satisfy their curiosity will find plenty of spectacle and fisticuffs to enliven their Friday nights. Just don’t expect a sequel anytime soon. Rated PG-13. Running time: 2:29. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $39.99.
“PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS,” Logan Lerman, Douglas Smith. A would-be colleague of Harry Potter, “Twilight,” and “The Hunger Games,” the “Percy Jackson” series coasts easily enough on good humor and earnest performances, though the underperforming box office receipts suggest it’s not quite ready to share the spotlight with its peers. That said, if you can handle the exposition overload needed to squash author Rick Riordan’s massive universe into an average running time, there’s a pleasing, Spielberg-esque tone that gives it an edge over its oft maudlin and overly serious ilk, enough so that one hopes the series will continue to find its stride. Rated PG. Running time: 1:47. Suggested retail price: $29.98; Blu-ray $39.98.
“PRISONERS,” Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal. The success of this gritty, complex and excellently acted crime drama is welcome proof that audiences will in fact turn up in droves to an intelligently scripted film that isn’t simply a rehash of accepted tropes, though “Prisoners” is uncompromising enough that not all viewers will want to take it on. A kidnapping drama involving a desperate father (Jackman), an intelligent but overworked detective (Gyllenhaal), and an impenetrable, mentally handicapped suspect (Paul Dano), “Prisoners” unleashes its characters in an unthinkable situation and stands back to observe, with director Denis Villeneuve (“Maelstrom”) giving his actors plenty of room to bring the situations to vivid life. Rated R. Running time: 2:33. Suggested retail price: $28.98; Blu-ray $35.99.
NEW TO DVD
“JUSTIFIED: THE COMPLETE SEASON FOUR,” Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins. One of those rare shows we can confidently recommend to almost anybody, “Justified” just keeps getting better with each successive season, no mean feat considering the debut season was fantastic. Season four finds Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Olyphant) attempting to unravel a cold case that turns out to directly involve his own family. Not rated. Suggested retail price: $55.99; Blu-ray $65.99.
“ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US,” documentary. Attention parents of tween girls: This is exclusively what you’ll be watching for the next month, a lively and well assembled doc that follows insanely popular band of the moment One Direction. Director Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”) shows One Direction as a genuinely likable and rather humble group of guys, who assure their naysayers they’re just as surprised about their runaway success as you are. Special features include 20 minutes of new footage and four additional songs. Rated PG. Running time: 1:32. Suggested retail price: $30.99; Blu-ray $35.99.
“SHAMELESS: THE COMPLETE SEASON THREE,” William H. Macy, Emmy Rossum. Showtime seems to specialize in morally questionable protagonists, and they don’t get much more morally questionable than The Gallaghers, led by the perpetually inebriated Frank (Macy) and eldest daughter Fiona (Rossum), saddled with caring for the other five Gallagher kids. An enjoyably rambunctious underdog of a comedy series that seems primed to catch on big. Not rated. Suggested retail price: $39.98; Blu-ray $49.99.
NEW TO BLU-RAY
“THE INDIANA JONES TRILOGY,” Harrison Ford, Karen Allen. A hi-def re-release of the ever-popular adventures of everybody’s favorite surly archaeologist, including “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981), “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984), and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989), just in time for the Gen Xer on your holiday list. Rated PG and PG-13. Suggested retail price: $26.98 (each disc).
“BRONIES: THE EXTREMELY UNEXPECTED ADULT FANS OF MY LITTLE PONY” documentary. In which we’re asked to consider the brony: one of the growing legions of adult males obsessed with the cartoon “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic,” an animated reboot of the popular ’80s franchise squarely aimed at young girls. It’s more of a phenomenon than one might suspect, and this doc manages to cater to both viewers understandably confused by the situation as well as bronies themselves, who are given ample opportunity to try to explain themselves by director Laurent Malaquais (“Men from Nowhere”). A trip to Bronycon, an annual gathering for card-carrying bronies, is the highlight of this affectionate and informative look at an amusing but clearly dedicated fringe group. Not rated. Running time: 1:30. Suggested retail price: $16.95; Blu-ray: $39.99.
– Courtesy of Videoport