RUNDOWN: Weekly Releases for 6/4/13

Silent House

Universal / 2011 / 86 Minutes / Rated R

Blu-ray Release Date: June 4, 2013

If you're up for a unique if not completely effective thriller, check out the low-budget 'Silent House' from the directors of another outstanding stab at the shark-thriller 'Open Water'. Sort of a cross between a decent Twilight Zone episode and a Hitchcock thriller, directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau craft a spooky little horror film which at times may have you turning the lights on in the house. With a no-name cast including Elizabeth Olsen in the lead, these promising directors have crafted another low-budget sleeper hit to their resume.

Olsen plays the troubled Sarah, a young woman who finds herself sealed inside her family's secluded lake house. Isolated from the outside world entirely and with no way out, we watch as Sarah tries desperately to navigate through her trapped environment as panic slowly turns to terror. With a slew of unexpected twists and turns, Kentis and Lau deliver a shocking Hitchcockian ending that is disturbing as it is chilling. Featuring camera choreography to take the audience on a tension-filled, real time journey shot as if it was all taken in one spine tingling interrupted shot, like the Hitchcock thriller 'Rope', 'Silent House' may not win any awards or become an international phenomenon like 'Paranormal Activity', but it's definitely worth a look and delivers the necessary thrills for genre fans.

Extras include Feature Commentary with Co-Director Chris Kentis and Screenwriter/Co-Director Laura Lau as well as the expected upcoming trailers of other Universal properties.

The Mummy

Universal Studios Home Entertainment / 1999 / 125 Minutes / Rated PG-13

Blu ray Release Date: June 4, 2013

Brendan Fraser stars in Universals 1999 reboot of its popular Mummy franchise. The studio wasted no money in special effects in this overblown remake with enough CGI to make it look like a horror movie from Pixar. Directed by Stephen Sommers along with a total of six co-writers including the director himself, this bloated effort was desperately trying to appeal to the mass-audiences as evidenced by its PG-13 rating. Costarring Rachel Weisz, John Hannah and a scene stealing performance by Arnold Vosloo as the High Priest Imhotep, 'The Mummy' has sadly not gotten any better with age given the near decade and a half since its theatrical release. If Universal has any desire to blow the dust off this property in the future, they'd be best spending a little more time finding a good script before letting the cameras roll.

Fraser plays the film's hero, Richard "Rick" O'Connell, an American serving in the French Foreign Legion in Egypt, there leading an archaeological dig when things start turning hinky. Armed with the brother-sister team of beautiful Egyptologist Evelyn (Weisz) and her one-liner delivering brother (Hannah), O'Connell unwittingly unleashes a centuries-old curse. This is where the convoluted plot and CGI switches into overdrive as the high priest Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) free from his eternal prison sets off on a centuries old plot of revenge for a love affair gone sour. Watchable popcorn fare, in order to enjoy this frolicking adventure you'll have to forgive some major potholes of logic along with some stilted dialogue in favor of some major visual flare. The best compliment this film can be given is it looks like 'Gone with the Wind' in comparison to its inferiorly slapped together sequel.

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

Creature from the Black Lagoon

Universal Studios / 1954 / 79 Minutes / Unrated

Blu ray Release Date: June 4, 2013

This must be horror week in the archives at Universal as they roll out another classic from the vaults with 1954's 'Creature from the Black Lagoon'. Released in 3D at the time when the studios were experimenting with the new form in order to compete with the growing competition with television, this black & white thriller features some decent performances by some B-level talent at the time, lead by Richard Carlson, Julie Adams and Richard Denning.

This moody thriller from the time is now at bona fide classic thanks to some sharp direction by Jack Arnold. The film begins innocuously enough as we follow a scientific expedition searching for fossils along the darkest regions of the Amazon when suddenly what peaks its head from the murky waters turns out to be a prehistoric beast unearthed from the river depths. Our fascinated crew discovers the prehistoric Gill-Man from the legendary Black Lagoon. At first our explorers plan on capturing and studying the mysterious creature when all hell breaks loose. At its heart, the film is a love story featuring an unexpected attraction between the beast and Kay, fiancée of one of the expedition. Tame by today's standards, 'Creature' still manages to pack an effective punch however considering the near six decades since its release.

Extras include several documentaries featuring film historian Tom Weaver with are both entertaining and illuminating. Also included is the film's original 3-D Version, which is certainly a throwback to a simpler era.

A Good Day to Die Hard

20th Century Fox / 2013 / 98 Minutes / Rated R

Blu-ray Release Date: June 4, 2013

Bruce Willis shows no sign of slowing down at the box-office, wisely choosing eclectic roles to fill his resume along with the occasional revival of his famous alter ego John McClane from the 'Die Hard' series. While the last one released in 2007, titled 'Live Free or Die Hard' was a hit with audiences and critics alike, this latest jaunt for the guy who's always in the wrong place at the wrong time, albeit in this go around with his son, was a miss entirely. Although it might have made back its investment for Fox, the studio would wisely either retire the franchise or wait for a better story to launch the series again. But this is the same studio that milked as many 'Planet of the Apes' sequels in the 70's as the public would allow so don't bet on McClane going away anytime soon.

This 80s throwback adventure sends the title character to Russia. Costarring Jai Courtney, Cole Hauser, Sebastian Koch, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Yuliya Snigir, director John Moore puts the title character through all the expected paces and clichés in an international plot involving his estranged son Jack who is ensconced in a daring prison escape of a rogue Russian leader. But nothing is what it seems with double and triple agents working overtime in keeping this thriller up to the levels of other Die Hard films. While not a complete disaster, 'A Good Day to Die Hard' does have its moments, however it pales in comparisons to both the first and fourth film. At its best, it's a frothy action film and at its worst an empty shell of its previous self. Nevertheless, audiences are far more forgiving than movie critics so if you're up for another outing of 80's favorite hero, you probably won't be too disappointed.

Extras include commentary by Director John Moore and First Assistant Director Mark Cotone, a Stills: Gallery, Theatrical trailers, featurettes: Maximum McClane, Making it Hard to Die, Anatomy of a Car Chase, Two of a Kind, Back in Action, The New Face of Evil, Pre-vis, as well as some deleted scenes.

Warm Bodies

Summit Entertainment / 2013 / 97 Minutes / Rated PG-13

Blu-ray Release Date: June 4, 2013

Pardon the pun but films about zombies are pretty much done to death. Thus is the premise behind last winter's surprising rom-com thriller 'Warm Bodies'. With tongue firmly implanted in cheek, this female friendly horror film tries its best to juggle both male and female appeal by delivering just enough horror blood and guts elements mixed in with an unexpected love story. Although not entirely successful, this affable Valentine's Day entry should find even a great audience on video than it did at theaters.

Written and directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50, The Wackness) and starring a mostly unknown cast including up and comer Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Dave Franco and Rob Corddry for comic relief, 'Warm Bodies' starts off with the premise that the world is in the midst of a population of the undead roaming the earth. Proving that not all zombies are alike, the film centers on the plight of R, an introspective young zombie who meets human Julie and feels an unexpected urge to protect her. A third enemy--a ferocious set of zombies known as "Bonies" threaten both worlds of humans and newly inducted zombies leading to an ultimate battle where their human counterpart discover a key that can convert them back to living creatures yet again. Harmless fun with a dose of good humor mixed into some decent thrills, 'Warm Bodies' aims to please the masses while not upsetting rabid fans of the genre.

Extras are plentiful including audio Commentary with Director Jonathon Levine and Actors Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer, featurettes titles A Little Less Dead, Extreme Zombie Make-Over, A Wreck in Progress, Bustin Caps, Beware the Boneys, Zombie Acting Tips with Rob Corddry, some deleted scenes as well as a "Shrug & Groan" gag reel.

Clint Eastwood 20 Film Collection

Warner Brothers / 1968 / Rated R

Blu-ray Release Date: June 4, 2013

Warner Brothers is releasing a collection of Clint Eastwood films starting with the role that shot him to international fame as San Francisco cop Harry Calahan in 1968's 'Dirty Harry'. The film's sequels 'Magnum Force' and 80's revival 'Sudden Impact' (which coined the phrase "Go ahead, make my day") are included here, however the horrible final chapter 'The Dead Pool' is fortunately missing. For any fan of Eastwood, this collection is a must, although the summer timing for such a release is a bit bewildering. Perhaps the studio wanted to get a head start on Christmas. In any event, this collection represents some of the actor/director/producer's finest work to date.

Twenty films compile the best of Eastwood's work in the past four decades. Included here are Eastwood's rare foray into comedy with 'Every Which Way But Loose', many of his better westerns like 'Unforgiven' which garnered him a Best Director Oscar, as well as one of my personal favorites 'Gran Torino' which gave Eastwood yet another catch phrase for a new generation, "Get off my lawn." Some of the misses in his career, a few turkeys include 'Firefox' which played out like a paint-by-number action picture of the 80's, the lighthearted but enjoyable 'Space Cowboys' as well as last year's misfire 'Trouble with the Curve'. There's a little something here however for every Eastwood fan, including other favorites like 'A Perfect World', 'Heartbreak Ridge', "Hereafter', 'J. Edgar', 'Letters from Iwo Jima', 'Million Dollar Baby', 'Pale Rider', 'The Gauntlet', and 'The Outlaw Josey Wales'.

Extras include The Eastwood Factor Documentary as well as the all-new Eastwood Directs: The Untold Story Documentary.

Escape the Planet 3D

Starz/Anchor Bay / 2013 / 89 Minutes / Rated PG

Blu-ray Release Date: June 4, 2013

Starz/Anchor Bay makes another feeble attempt into the cluttered studio CGI animation market with this winter's 'Escape the Planet 3d'. This out-of-this world family adventure features the voice talents of Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, James Gandolfini, Jessica Alba, and Rob Corddry. Sort of a mishmash of bits and pieces of other animated hits, 'Escape the Planet' feels like it can't escape some comparison to better films despite some fresh direction by Cal Brunker.

Set against the backdoor of the planet Baab where admired astronaut Scorch Supernova (Brendan Fraser) is a national hero to the blue alien population, our daring hero manages to pull off incredible feats of bravery with the help of his not-so-cool nerdy brother, Gary (Rob Corddry). When BASA's no-nonsense chief Lena (Jessica Alba) informs the brothers of an SOS from a notoriously dangerous planet, Scorch throws caution to the wind and sets off for another exciting mission. But it is long before Scorch discovers he's in over his head when he finds himself caught in the crosshairs by the evil Shanker (William Shatner). With our hero out of commission it's up to Scorch's incompetent brother Gary to step up and save the day. Although the film's core message is well intentioned, sadly the story gets mired so many clichés you may find yourself yawning rather than thrilled.

Extras include commentary with director Cal Brunker, The Making of Escape From Planet Earth, Alternate Takes and Deleted Scenes, as well as Music Featurettes from Delta Rae, Owl City and Cody Simpson.

Mad Max Trilogy

Warner Brothers / 1979 / 292 Minutes / Rated R

Blu-ray Release Date: June 4, 2013

Another early Christmas box set arrives this summer with Warner Brothers 'Mad Max Trilogy' starring Mel Gibson and Tina Turner. Starting with the first futuristic action hero adventure, 'Mad Max' in 1979, then the 1982 sequel titled 'Mad Max Road Warrior' and finally the 1985 conclusion 'Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome', this top not release comes with a plethora of extras certain to satiate the appetites of its rabid fan base. It's surprising with all the remakes and reboots, Warner Brothers hasn't looked into dusting off this sci-fi adventure series.

Starting with director George Miller's first entry in the trilogy, Mad Max set in the future where relentless cop Max Rockatansky (Gibson) tries to keep order in a world gone mad. Max tries to escape the edge of an apocalypse when an unfortunate encounter with a motorcycle gang turns into a race to save his family's life.

Next up in 'Road Warrior' we discover our hero taking on the bad guys in a noble effort to protect a small camp of desert survivors and defend an oil refinery under siege from another group of bad guys looking to plunder the land for gasoline. In the final outing 'Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome' Max must take on the barbarians of the post-nuclear future and become the savior of a tribe of lost children. Tina Turner co-stars as Aunty Entity, a power-mad dominatrix determined to use Max to squeeze her control over Bartertown, where fresh water, clean food and gasoline are worth more than gold.

Extras include Audio Commentary by director George Miller, as well as two behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Falling Skies: Season 2

Warner Brothers / 2012 / 450 Minutes / Unrated

Blu-ray Release Date: June 4, 2013

Steven Spielberg produces through his Dreamworks studio TNT's Sci-fi action series 'Falling Skies'. With a bang up cast including former ER lead Noah Wyle, Will Patton, Moon Bloodgood, Drew Roy, Colin Cunningham and Connor Jessup, this high flying spectacle series involving a massive alien invasion on earth quickly found a legion of fans since oddly the Syfy channel seemed to steer their programming away from the genre. In anticipation of the third season, Warner Brothers is releasing the series sophomore season on video. The time has come to catch up what's in store for our otherworldly invaders.

The second season kicks off with the mystery deepening for the remaining survivors of the massive alien invasion with more drama, more thrills, and more mysterious new creatures. Three months have passed since Tom Mason (Wyle) former college professor and father of three has become the unlikely leader of a resistance group here on earth and volunteered to go with the aliens to one of their ships to free his son. Nobody has seen or heard anything from him during this time, and his absence has taken its toll on his sons. Ben (Jessup) and his older brother, Hal (Roy), have stepped up as fighters but inevitably butt heads when it comes to deciding on their next plan of action. As expected things are never what they seem in Robert Rodat's spine tingling Sci-Fi melodrama which based upon the loyal fan base and Spielberg's participation, shows no sign of slowing down.

Extras include some episode audio commentary and a tease of things to come.

Electra Glide in Blue

Shout Factory / 1973 / 114 Minutes / Rated PG

Blu-ray Release Date: June 4, 2013

Shout Factory's gem-of-the-week from the film archives is the 1973 cop action-comedy 'Electra Glide in Blue'. Starring Robert Blake, Billy Green Bush, Mitch Ryan and Elisha Cook, Jr., this tongue-in-cheek action packed thriller of the day stems from the name of the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide motor cycle issued to traffic cops. Directed by James Guercio, this film is definitely a welcomed throwback to the seventies but what stands out the most about it is Blake's lovable performance as a short cop who turns out to be an unlikely hero. Network executives must have seen the promise and obvious irascible charm when they plucked him from obscurity to play TV detective Baretta.

The former Little Rascal plays a short slightly put-upon Arizona motorcycle cop who ultimately gets his wish for more responsibility and off the traffic beat when he's promoted to Homicide following the mysterious murder of a hermit. But it isn't long before our diminutive hero is up to his eyeballs in trouble as the burden of solving the crime is place firmly upon his slight shoulders. It's Blake's charm that keeps this confection light and fluffy and some sharp direction by Guercio, his first film, featuring some terrific cinematography by Conrad Hall.

Sadly there are no extras in this four-decade-old release.

Identity Thief

Universal / 2013 / 112 Minutes / Rated R

Blu-ray Release Date: June 4, 2013

Building off the momentum of 'Bridesmaids' and Melissa McCarthy's rise to fame with her popular series 'Mike & Molly', Universal wasted no time in capitalizing with last year's comedy 'Identity Thief'. Starring Jason Bateman and costarring John Cho, Amanda Peet, and Jon Favreau, this midland effort provides enough decent chuckles, chortles and guffaws to warrant a look. Elevated by McCarthy and Bateman's presence along with some brisk pacing by 'Horrible Bosses' director Seth Gordon, this summer sleeper will undoubtedly find a richer audience on video.

Bateman plays to type with his typical put-upon everyman when one day he gets a call from his credit card company indicating a slew of fraudulent charges on his credit card. Cut to Diana (McCarthy) have a blast at the expense of her alter ego Sandy Patterson (Bateman). The real Sandy Patterson decided to take matters into his own hands and make the cross-country trek to track down the culprit. It's here where things quickly unravel in Spy vs. Spy style with Diana trying her best to outwit her mark. A fun frolicking ride ensues however due to the nature of her original crime, writers paint themselves into an ultimately somewhat unsatisfying ending. But most of this is forgivable thanks to a healthy and surprisingly not forced dose of heart thrown into the mix.

Extras include a funny Gag Reel, a behind-the-scenes documentary as well as Scene Stealing: Capturing the Humor of 'Identity Thief',

The Skiptracer's Van Tour, as well as a track of Alternate Takes.

It's a Disaster

Oscilloscope Pictures / 2013 / 88 Minutes / Rated R

Blu-ray Release Date: June 4, 2013

Typically titling a comedy 'It's a Disaster' is priming yourself for negative review, unless of course you're dealing with a parody of disaster flicks. But in the case of independent darling writer-director Todd Berger, this charming ensemble picture has all the elements of a sleeper hit. With an eclectic cast including Julia Stiles, David Cross, Rachel Boston, America Ferrera, Todd Berger, and Jeff Grace, this briskly paced offbeat comedy has enough charm and quirky moments to endear almost any audience.

The film follows the plight of eight individuals who meet for their monthly couples brunch, one of whom brings decides to bring along her new boyfriend. What starts as a typical gathering, turns into an impromptu therapy session as each couple starts sharing about each of their domestic grievances. Just when you thought things were headed to Woody Allen territory, suddenly there's a mysterious attack on the city. Trapped in the house and unsure of the outcome of humanity, these seemingly serene individuals slowly unravel to hysterical proportions.

Extras include some decent audio commentary by writer/director Todd Berger as well as some other trailers for some Oscilloscope releases.

My Neighbor Totoro

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

Blu-ray Release Date: June 4, 2013

If you're a fan of Japanese animation, you're in for a treat with the twenty-five anniversary of Miyazaki's 'My Neighbor Totoro'. 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, 'My Neighbor Totoro' is a welcomed relief from a bygone era.

The film follows the plight of two young girls, Satsuki and Mei, who are having a tough time dealing with the hospitalization of their mother. When they move to the country with their father they are brought on a magical journey involving their neighbor Totoro. As you might expect with the tradition of Japanese animation, particularly films by Miyazaki, the director utilizes a simple storytelling approach to create an enchanting tale that never feels saccharine or forced.

Extras include Original Storyboards as well as featurettes,

Creating 'My Neighbor Totoro, Creating the Characters, The 'Totoro' Experience, Scoring Miyazaki, The Locations of 'Totoro' , as well as trailers for other Japanese animated features.


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