RUNDOWN: Weekly Releases for 6/11/13

The Newsroom: Complete First Season

HBO / 2012 / 610 Minutes / Unrated

Blu-ray Release Date: June 11, 2013

Aaron Sorkin is in his comfort zone once again after his feature smash 'The Social Network' with HBO's 'The Newsroom'. With a kick-ass trailer featuring Jeff Daniels as a beloved Tom Brokaw inspired network news anchor, this intriguing series immediately caught on with critics and audiences alike. In anticipation of the show's sophomore season, HBO is releases the complete first season on blu-ray to whet the appetite of new fans. If you've never seen an episode, this is one series you can really sink your teeth in over the summer, as networks tend to roll out lighter fare and repeats.

Costarring Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher Jr., Sam Waterston, and a special appearance by Jane Fonda, this behind-the-scenes drama takes a look at a cable-news program at the fictional ACN Network, focusing on the antics and lives of its acerbic anchor Will McAvoy (Daniels) and the show's new executive producer MacKenzie McHale (Mortimer) as well as their newsroom staff (John Gallagher, Jr., Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Olivia Munn, Dev Patel). In a way, I saw this series as a bit reminiscent of the popular 'Lou Grant' series in the late 70's with a decided and edgier twist. Sorkin uses the issues of the day, including an oilrig explosion, to fictionalize and mine for as much controversy as possible. There's plenty of drama on and off screen as you might expect from a Sorkin series. The dialogue is rapidly paced like his other popular series, 'The West Wing'. At times dense, the hour-long series often feels much longer simply because of the non-stop dialogue and newsroom setting. Although not my favorite HBO by a long shot, Sorkin's return however is a welcomed treat as is his talented cast.

Extras include The Rundown, a behind-the-scenes interview with cast and crew detailing their experiences shooting the first season, Five Audio Commentaries with Sorkin, Poul, Daniels, Waterston, Mortimer and others, Mission Control: Behind-the-scenes look at the state-of-the-art sets with the cast and crew, Inside the Episodes: Inside perspectives with revealing interviews from Sorkin, Deleted Scenes as well as Episodic Previews & Recaps.

Lilo & Stitch, Lilo & Stitch 2

Disney/Buena Vista / 2002 / Rated PG

Blu ray Release Date: June 11, 2013

Daveigh Chase, Chris Sanders, Dakota Fanning provide voices for Disney's final foray into traditional feature animation with 2002's Lilo & Stitch. With a direct-to-video sequel, this above-average entry in the cluttered animation market, Lilo & Stitch may not be in the same league of some of the other Disney classics, however its clever characters and colorful animation still provides an honorable swan song to the traditional form.

Directed by Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders, Michael LaBash, and Anthony Leondis, the story set against the backdrop of glorious Hawaii features the plight of a young Hawaiian girl who adopts an unusual pet that turns out to be an extra-terrestrial fugitive from the law. The two form a fast bond as Stitch proves to be an irrepressible and infectious joy to the young girl's life. It isn't long before an unexpected adventure ensues with our duo quickly discovering they're in over their head in trouble. In the direct-to-video sequel, similar hijinks occur with our lovable team winning in the end.

Extras include Audio Commentaries, a behind-the-scenes documentary, some deleted scenes, storyboards and still gallery. As usual, a plethora of trailers of other Disney titles are also included.

Enter the Dragon

Warner Brothers / 1973 / Rated R

Blu ray Release Date: June 11, 2013

Bruce Lee stars in his finest cinematic adventure ever in 1973's classic, 'Enter the Dragon'. Fans of the legend will rejoice with this four-decade anniversary edition that comes chock filled with fascinating extras featuring this internationally renowned classic. Digitally remastered, this Dragon never looked so good and still manages to pack a kick and a punch forty years after it karate chopped its way on the screen.

The granddaddy of all martial arts classic revolves around the plight of our three main characters involved in a scam with the high stakes drama of the Opium trade. Lee plays a man recruited by an agency to investigate a tournament hosted by Han, who they suspect has an Opium trade there. Roper and Williams are former army buddies since Vietnam and they enter the tournament due to different problems that they have. Roper is on the run from the Mafia due to his gambling debts, while Williams is harassed by racist police officers and defends himself from them and uses the car for his getaway. The brutal melee turns into a deadly tournament on a remote island where it's up to Lee to get the two men out of there alive. It is a deadly tournament that they will enter on an island. Lee's job is to get the other two out of there alive. Clearly the best Bruce Lee picture of his brief film career cut short by a brain aneurism.

Extras on this fortieth anniversary edition includes commentary by producer Paul Heller, three new featurettes titled No Way As Way, The Return to Han's Island, Wing Chun: The Art that Introduced Kung Fu to Bruce Lee as well as an Interview Gallery featuring Lee's wife, Linda Lee Caldwell, some Vintage pieces, Five trailers, and Seven TV spots.

Oz the Great and Powerful

Disney/Buena Vista / 2013 / 130 Minutes / Rated PG

Blu-ray Release Date: June 11, 2013

It's been almost 75 years since Judy Garland took the first formative steps down the yellow brick road in the original classic 'Wizard of Oz'. Although Hollywood has attempted to follow in her footsteps with a handful of revivals, none of ever made any traction to live in the shadow of the original. That doesn't mean Hollywood stops trying... with last year's honorable entry with 'Oz the Great and Powerful'. Directed by Sam Raimi and starring James Franco, Michelle Williams, and Rachel Weisz, this visual adventure does a fine job of living up to the legend and will obviously delight fans of all generations.

The film tries to duplicate the feeling of the original as the story kicks into gear in black & white as we follow Oscar Diggs (Franco), a small-time circus magician and full-time charlatan finds himself hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant and ever so colorful Land of Oz. At first he thinks he's hit the jackpot-fame and fortune are his for the taking, when that plan meets a snag with the arrival of tree witches who suspect he's not the great wizard the residents of Oz have been awaiting. But our reluctant hero is slowly drawn into the plight of its inhabitants and finds the true Wizard inside him. With a strong message, albeit a bit heavy handed at times, this wonderful and nostalgic trip to the magic Land of Oz has enough plusses to forgive its many minuses.

Extras include commentary by Raimi as well as several behind-the-scenes documentaries.

Atlantis: Lost Empire / Atlantis: Milo's Return

Disney/Buena Vista / 2001 / Rated PG

Blu-ray Release Date: June 11, 2013

One of Disney's few animation misfires before Toy Story changed the face of traditional animation forever was the 2001 epic journey 'Atlantis: Los Empire'. A dozen years hasn't done much to add any more sheen on this midland effort by the studio as well as its tepid direct-to-video follow-up, 'Atlantis: Milo's Return'. Voiced by actors Michael J. Fox, Corey Burton, and James Arnold Taylor, and directed by five separate entities including Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise, Victor Cook, Toby Shelton, and Tad Stones, this likable effort does have some redeeming qualities including a decent story and affable if not totally memorable characters.

The first adventure involves the plight of a young adventurer named Milo Thatch who joins an intrepid group of explorers to find the mysterious lost continent of Atlantis. It's here where a 'Raiders of the Lost Arc' inspired fantasy ensues with our underdog hero leading the team out of danger and finding a little more than he bargained for, including romance. In the follow-up, 'Atlantis: Milo's Return' Milo and Kida reunite with their friends to investigate strange phenomenon around the world that all seem to have links to the secrets of Atlantis.

Extras are sadly lacking in this double feature entry except for a plethora of expected previews for a slew of other Disney properties.

Emperor's' New Groove / Kronk's New Groove

Disney/Buena Vista / 2000 / Rated G

Blu-ray Release Date: June 11, 2013

Disney must be having a clearance sale this week with another double-disc set with the medium splash 'Emperor's New Groove' from 2000 and it's above-average direct-to-video sequel, 'Kronk's New Groove'. Better than you might expect, these films mark a welcomed return to some of the studio's over-the-top work of earlier years like 'Jungle Book'. Mixing a simple story and some unforgettable characters voiced by David Spade, John Goodman, and Patrick Warburton, these crowd pleasing adventures may not delight the critics, however, I doubt that's what Disney had in mind when they teamed up with a popular fast food company in marketing this family comedy.

This lighthearted effort set during ancient Greece includes some dazzling numbers and outrageous comedy as Emperor Kuzco (Spade) finds himself unexpectedly transformed into a llama, yes--a llama by his ex-administrator Yzma. Kuzco is now in for the battle of his life as he fights regain his throne with the help of a gentle and slightly underachieving llama herder by the name of Pacha (Goodman). In the sequel, 'Kronk's New Groove,' the story focuses on lovable lug Kronk (Warburton), who has happily started a new life as the head chef in his very own diner.

Extras are sadly lacking in this double feature entry except for a plethora of expected previews for a slew of other Disney properties.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D

Paramount / 2013 / 88 Minutes / Unrated

Blu-ray Release Date: June 11, 2013

'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D' appears to be a parody preview that you might have seen in 'Tropic Thunder' but it turns out the producers and the studio were quite serious in creating a new action-adventure franchise. Held together by the glue of the stars Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as well as a ton of special effects, this lightweight pre-summer entry made a quick slash with audiences before heading over to a richer market on video.

Loosely based on the Grimm's fairy tale, the story surrounds the plight of Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) who have become something of super heroes after succeeding to obliterate the evil witch that held them captive as children. Now they have become the ultimate vigilantes, hell bent on retribution. But their past is about to catch up with them along with evil far worse than the first witch they encountered. At a painfully brief 88-minute length, this action confection is entertaining and has its moments thanks to a tongue-and-cheek delivery by its leads.

Extras include featurettes Reinventing Hansel & Gretel, The Witching Hours, and Meet Edward the Troll.

House of Cards: Season 1

Sony / 2012 / 674 Minutes / Unrated

Blu-ray Release Date: June 11, 2013

Netflix is determined to become a full fledge supplier of programming as it tries to compete with the big boys like HBO and Showtime. Their first splashy entry aiming to please both the critics and its subscriber base is 'House of Cards' starring Kevin Spacey. Directed and produced by David Fincher, the pilot set against the mechanisms of Washington, D.C. definitely grabs with slick direction, smart dialogue as well as a terrific ensemble cast including Robin Wright, Reuel Pendleton, Sakina Jaffrey and Corey Stoll.

The soap opera-esque political potboiler concerns the ruthless and cunning, Congressman Francis Underwood (Spacey) and his wife Claire (Wright) who aim to be the ultimate power couple. They stop at nothing to conquer everything they want through whatever methods necessary including greed, sex, and corruption. While subsequent episodes lack the punch of the pilot, the series eventually gets its footing back toward the end. If Netflix can garner a few nominations and/or trophies this year, you can be sure there will be many more seasons in the Cards for this show.

Extras include director's commentary and a short behind-the-scenes featurette.

Ring of Fire

Gaiam / 2012 / 176 Minutes / Unrated

Blu-ray Release Date: June 11, 2013

'Ring of Fire' represents a throwback to disaster films of the 70's that started with Irwin Allen and ended with knock off after knock off. With CGI effects getting cheaper and easier to come by, low-budget disaster films are making a comeback particularly in the mini-series market. The quality isn't at the level visually like something you might see with a Roland Emmerich big budget adventure, however filmmaker Paul Shapiro tries to do what he can with a cliché ridden script and a decent cast trying to make it all work. Starring Michael Vartan, Terry O'Quinn, and Lauren Lee Smith, 'Ring of Fire', this intriguing adventure goes through all the motions without making much of an impact with audiences.

When an oilrig causes a volcanic eruption in a small town, it's just the first in a trigger effect called the Ring of Fire that stretches across the globe. With the clock ticking, it's up to our heroes to figure out how to stop these cataclysmic series of eruptions before the earth itself will be swallowed whole, ending life as we know it. With a heady concept, bad dialogue and languid direction, 'Ring of Fire' quickly falls short of its potential.

Extras are nonexistent other than trailers of other releases.

Street Trash

Synapse Films / 1987 / 91 Minutes / Unrated

Blu-ray Release Date: June 11, 2013

Synapse films dug up a forgotten gem from the 80's with the cult horror-comedy 'Street Trash'. Featuring a cast of unknowns (then AND now) including Mike Lackey, Bill Chepil, and Vic Noto, this likable effort is so bad at times, it's good. Directed by J. Michael Muro, this horror-shocker may not have won any awards but quickly found small but loyal following after its 1987 release.

When a liquor storeowner finds a strange old case of "Viper" in his cellar, he decides to sell it to the local hobos at a dollar a bottle unaware of its true properties. The drinks cause its consumers to melt, in a way that is both gruesome and messy. Two homeless lads find themselves up against the effects of the toxic brew, as well as going head to head with "Bronson" a Vietnam vet with sociopathic tendencies, and the owner of the junkyard they live in. Kitschy by today's standards, 'Street Trash' is something of an acquired taste. A taste not everyone wants to acquire.

Sadly there are no extras in this three and a half-decade-old release.


Image Entertainment / 2012 / 94 Minutes / Unrated

Blu-ray Release Date: June 11, 2013

Absurd comedy 'Wrong' from writer-director Quentin Dupieux ('Rubber') comes to blu-ray with the hopes of finding a wider audience. This surreal comedy made its world premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, about a man's frantic search for his kidnapped dog and the strange characters he encounters along the way. Starring Jack Plotnick, Eric Judor, Alexis Dziena, William Fichtner, and Steve Little, this bizarre little tale failed to generate enough buzz to warrant a theatrical release.

The story kicks off as Dolph Springer wakes up one morning to realize he has lost the love of his life, his dog, Paul. The frantic pet owner sets his quest on recovering Paul at all costs. His journey takes him to the unexpected as he begins to radically change the lives of others while slowly losing his mind. Outrageous but often times too wacky for its own good, 'Wrong' takes an interesting conceit and bends it so far to the bizarre you have a hard time rooting for the protagonist.

Extras include director's commentary as well as trailers for other upcoming Image properties.

House on Straw Hill

Severin Films / 1976 / 84 Minutes / Rated R

Blu-ray Release Date: June 11, 2013

'House on Straw Hill', a shocking talk of blood and violence from 1976 comes to video this week hoping to find a whole new audience thirty eight years after it hit theaters. Starring Udo Kier, Linda Hayden, Fiona Richmond and written and directed by James Kenelm Clarke, this uneven psychological thriller has enough going for it to warrant a gander from genre fans.

The film's backdrop almost sounds something out of a Stephen King horror novel. The story concerns the plight of a successful novelist who becomes obsessed with the pretty occupant of an isolated farmhouse. As his intrigue regarding the mysterious woman intensify, the writer is gradually overpowered by frightening hallucinations and compulsive feelings of lust and violence. Racy for the day, this throwback to an earlier era still packs a punch thanks to a decent script and sharp direction by Clarke.

Extras include Director Commentary as well as some Cast & Crew Interviews.

Howl's Moving Castle

Disney/Buena Vista / 1988 / 82 Minutes / Rated G

Blu-ray Release Date: June 11, 2013

If you're a fan of Japanese animation, you're in for a treat with the twenty-five anniversary of Miyazaki's 'Howl's Moving Castle'. As usual with these types of films, the story is quite simple and involves an unexpected magical twist. In an age of CGI features, which seem to be churning out dozens by the month, 'Howl's Moving Castle' is a welcomed relief from a bygone era.

The film follows the plight of a young girl called Sophie who finds herself under a curse by the evil Witch Of The Waste, which transforms her into an ugly old woman. Ashamed and despondent, Sophie ditches her hat shop and heads for the hills in search of a cure where she meets up with Howl, a feared magician who resides in the Moving Castle. Inside the castle, Sophie befriends the fire demon Calcifer, who can see through the spell and offers to help her return to her natural form. Everything comes with a price, as Sophie finds herself quickly entwined in an adventure of her life.

Extras include some original storyboards, a behind-the-scenes featurette, as well as trailers for other Japanese animated features.

Beautiful Creatures

Warner Brothers / 2013 / 124 Minutes / Rated PG-13

Blu-ray Release Date: June 11, 2013

Writer-director Richard LaGravenese made a noble attempt at bringing Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's novel 'Beautiful Creatures' to life last year. Although it did nowhere the business of the Twilight series, this fantasy horror film did find a decent audience at theaters before spilling over into the video and cable world. With a British cast including Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Engler, Jeremy Irons and Viola Davis, this slow building mystery may be a bit subdued for American tastes since we're much more accustomed to the visceral and visual.

The story involves the plight of young Lena Duchannes, who arrives in a small English town where she quickly captures the attention of Ethan Wate, who only wants to escape what he views as a boring and dead end town. He quickly gets in over his head as he quickly discovers the girl he's enamored with possesses strange powers. As Lena and Ethan find themselves drawn together, their budding romance is doomed by the Lena's existence as a "caster" and her family's Dark powers. Making matters worse, upon her sixteenth birthday, Lena must undergo the Claiming, a process that will decide her fate forever: Light or Dark.

Extras are plentiful including behind-the-scenes featurettes, Book to Screen, The Casters, Between Two Worlds, Forbidden Romance, Alternate Worlds, Beautiful Creatures as well as deleted scenes as well as the film's original theatrical trailer.


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