RUNDOWN: Weekly Releases for 8/20/13

Epic 3D

20th Century Fox / 2013 / 103 Minutes / Rated PG

Blu-ray Release Date: August 20, 2013

20th Century Fox has had mixed if not spectacular results in the CGI feature animation game, it's biggest hit franchise to date being 'Ice Age'. This year's mostly dead-on-arrival 'Epic 3D' made barely a ripple at the box office or with critics, thus keeping the mammoth studio at the back of the back behind Pixar, Disney and DreamWorks. Featuring the voices of Beyoncé Knowles, Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Knoxville, and Christoph Waltz, this highflying adventure is nonetheless entertaining if not completely unmemorable. Kids under the ages of ten will probably be the most forgiving for this paint-by-number entry.

Directed by Chris Wedge, 'Epic' comes from the creators of 'Ice Age' and the nominally entertaining 'Rio'. A true tale of good versus evil, 'Epic' tells the story of an ongoing battle deep in the forest with an unlikely hero at the helm in the form of a teenage girl. When she finds herself magically transported into this secret universe, she must band together with a rag-tag team of whimsical characters in order to save their world...and ours. Sadly, none of the characters seem pop as particularly memorable and the visuals, although decent, lack an individuality to set this film apart from similar fare.

Extras are plentiful if not completely unnecessary including Mub & Grub Intro, Birds, Bugs and Slugs: Forest Explorer, Rot Rocks,

Bugs of Camouflage, The Epic Life At Two Inches Tall, Mysteries of Moonhaven Revealed, Epic Coloring & Storybook Builder App, as well as the film's original theatrical trailer.

Killing Season

Millennium Media / 2013 / 90 Minutes / Rated R

Blu ray Release Date: August 20, 2013

Millennium Media teams up to veteran stars, Robert DeNiro and John Travolta to deliver a forgettable adventure thriller not worthy either of their talents with the 'Killing Season'. Almost completely void of originality, if you've never heard of this film before, it's probably because this turkey bypassed your local theater in favor of a less discerning video market. But don't let the name power convince you to sample this below average entry or you will be sadly disappointed. The film's only saving grace is its barely ninety minute length.

Set deep in the Appalachian Mountains, we discover a reclusive American military veteran (Robert De Niro) and a European tourist (John Travolta) who somehow seem to strike up an unlikely friendship. But when the tourist's true intentions come to light, we quickly realize things are not as benign and friendly as they seem. What follows is a tense battle across some of America's most forbidding landscape in sort of a 'First Blood' meets 'Deliverance' in a battle of one on one. Considering the simple premise, one might have expected a little more flash or flare from the director to lift this effort to at least midland territory to warrant their talents.

Extras include a short Killing Season' Featurette with peripheral participation from the film's stars and director as well as the film's original theatrical trailer (however I can't imagine it ran in that many theaters).

Enterprise: Season 2

Paramount / 2002 / 1112 Minutes / Not rated

Blu ray Release Date: August 20, 2013

Gene Roddenberry's seemingly nonstop franchise 'Star Trek' finally hit its zenith after the third spin-off of the 60's classic, this one dubbed 'Enterprise' petered out after only a few seasons. Rather than set this series further into the future, producers decided an old school approach would freshen up the franchise. Starring Scott Bakula, John Billingsley, Jolene Blalock, Dominic Keating, and Anthony Montgomery, this second season set will certainly delight audiences as it comes with all twenty-six episodes of the show's sophomore season as well as plethora of extras.

With Captain Jonathan Archer (Bakula) trapped in the 31st century, the second season kicks off with a four-episode resolve to the show's first season's cliffhanger finale. This soap opera in space continues with circuitous connections to the original Star Trek (series and films) continuing to evolve with the return of Tellarites, Tholians, Klingons, Andorians, and even a brief appearance by a Tribble. The show's creators do a fine job keeping the blood pumping in this respectable offshoot of the Star Trek name, however as expected it has a hard time holding up by comparison to the original or the long running 'Next Generation' which continues to maintain legions of fans.

Extras include Commentary by Michael Sussman and Phyllis Strong on Dead Stop and Regeneration, Text commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda on Stigma and First Flight, Enterprise moments: season 2, Enterprise profile: Jolene Blalock, Levar Burton: Star Trek director, Enterprise secrets, Inside "A Night in Sickbay", Outtakes, Photo gallery, as well as some deleted scenes.

Return to Neverland

Disney/Buena Vista / 2002 / 72 Minutes / Rated G

Blu-ray Release Date: August 20, 2013

Before animation genius and Pixar forerunner John Lassiter took over in charge of Disney animation, the studio spent the better (or worse) part of a decade pilfering the vaults of all their classic films only to release inferior sequels to such standards as Cinderella, 101 Dalmatians and in 2002, 'Return to Neverland' featuring some of the beloved characters from 'Peter Pan'. Geared strictly for the direct-to-video market, these inferior animated knock-offs featured slapped together story lines and forgettable songs that only served as sacrilege towards the originals. But with forgiving eyes in the form of toddlers-to-ten year olds, the philosophy from the studio was to squeeze out every penny with no eye towards quality. Since then, Lassiter has reversed that philosophy and has been vigilant not to let the studio produce anything to diminish another Disney classic. That said Disney is still willing to roll out this midland entry in the hopes of finding a new audience.

Featuring the voices of Blayne Weaver, Corey Burton, Kath Soucie, Harriet Owen, and Jeff Bennett, the sequel tries to pick up seamlessly five decades after the original adventure with Peter Pan focusing on some of your favorite characters in a brand new adventure to Never Land. The story surrounds the plight of Wendy's very practical and no-nonsense daughter, Jane, when the infamous Captain Hook whisks her away to the island of Never Land leaving it to Peter Pan, Tinker Bell and the Lost Boys to rise to the occasion and defeat the dastardly villain. Watching this inferior sequel unfold you can't help but long for the original and scratch your head as to why the studio chose to cheapen its legacy with such a dismal follow-up.

Extras are expectantly nonexistent with the exception of a slew of trailers of other Disney films carefully placed with the studios marketing department.

Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Third Season

HBO Studios / 2012 / 673 Minutes / Unrated

Blu-ray Release Date: August 20, 2013

As HBO's period drama 'Boardwalk Empire' readies for its third season launch, the cable outlet is releasing the series sophomore season on Blu-ray in the hopes of finding new fans while satiating the old ones. Although I personally dubbed the first season 'Bored Walk', the series set during Prohibition quickly found its footing as each episode wore on. With a terrific cast including Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Michael Shannon, Michael K. Williams, Kelly MacDonald, and Stephen Graham, the critically lauded series has several well-earned Emmy's nominations and even a few awards under its belt. From executive producer Martin Scorsese, this period drama features scene chewing performances and an attention to detail not seen in any television series of its kind.

Picking up sixteen months after the Season Two finale, the third season begins on New Year's Eve, 1922, with 1923 mere hours away. The Roaring '20s are about to start as the economy is booming and alcohol has become scarce. Amidst this backdrop, Nucky, whose marriage to Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) has become a sham after she signed away his highway windfall to the church, faces new competition in the person of Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale), who builds a new strategic bulkhead between New York and Atlantic City in an effort to siphon off Nucky's alcohol business. The conflict brings out the best and worst in Nucky, who proves his brutal mettle in a series of Scorsese-esque violent encounters.

Extras include Six Cast and Crew Audio Commentaries, Boardwalk Empire: Director's Chair, Scorsese on Season Three, New Characters, Episodic Preview and Recaps, Season Two Recap, as well as a terrific catch-up titled Distilling Season Two.


Sony / 2012 / 127 Minutes / Rated PG-13

Blu-ray Release Date: August 20, 2013

Last year's greatest European import would have to be the critically lauded 'Amour' directed by Michael Haneke. Nominated for five Academy Awards as well as winning the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, this heartwarming and inspiring tale involving the process of aging and dying stars Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, and Isabelle Huppert. The less you know about this gem of a film going in the better as you will find the filmmaking both mesmerizing and enchanting a cinematic experience with performances that will haunt you long after the final credits roll.

The film centers on an elegant elderly couple, two retired music professors Anne (Riva) and Georges (Trintignant) as they both enjoy their last good day together when they attend the concert of a former student. The next day, Anne freezes at the kitchen table for a few minutes, after which she goes on as if nothing happened. Georges encourages her to see a doctor, who recommends surgery, but the operation fails, and she suffers a second stroke that paralyzes her right side. Georges copes the best he can with help from neighbors and home-care workers, but Anne rapidly loses the ability to function on her own, even to communicate. Although Georges appears to accept his wife's fate, we quickly begin to see denial is shielding him from his harsh reality. Incredibly insightful and at times purposefully slow, Haneke creates a human pastiche which is both touching and thoughtful as it is heart wrenching.

Extras include audio commentary by director Michael Haneke as well as the film's original theatrical trailer.

No One Lives

Starz/Anchor Bay / 2013 / 86 Minutes / Rated R

Blu-ray Release Date: August 20, 2013

Anchor Bay has another direct-to-video crime thriller this week that starts with a promising premise but unfortunately doesn't realize its full potential. That said I'm typically much more lenient when it comes to these genre pictures since I'm such a fan for the guilty pleasure escapist low-budget fare therefore if you've got a forgiving eye, you might just find yourself pleasantly surprised with this mostly effective little thriller. Starring Lee Tergesen, Derek Magyar, and Luke Evans, director Ryûhei Kitamura uses the most of what he's got both in front and behind the camera crafting together a fun potboiler which may leave you guessing until the end.

When a ruthless criminal gang takes a young couple hostage and goes to ground in an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere no one is in for a bigger surprise than the criminal gang themselves. When tragedy strikes, all hell breaks loose as the tables are turned on the gang and their hostages. They quickly discover an urbane and seasoned killer determined to ensure that no one lives is outsmarting them. Tensions rise as a game of cat and mouse ensues leaving the audience guessing which one will ultimately survive.

Extras are limited to a slew of trailers of other Starz/Anchor Bay properties.

Shadow Dancer

Magnolia / 2012 / 104 Minutes / Rated R

Blu-ray Release Date: August 20, 2013

Magnolia has a decent gritty crime thriller on its hands with last year's underperforming but critically praised 'Shadow Dancer'. With a terrific cast including Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough, Gillian Anderson, Aidan Gillen, and Domhnall Gleeson. After making a run at several Independent Film Festivals, this quiet little gem managed to land a distributor, however was only released in a handful of theaters before searching for a wider audience on video.

The film follows the plight of single mother, Collette McVeigh (Anderson) who is a Republican living in Belfast, Ireland with her mom and hardliner IRA brothers. When Collette is arrested for her part in an aborted IRA bomb plot, an MI5 officer (Owen) offers her a choice. She can lose everything and go to prison for a quarter century or return to Belfast to spy on her own family. With her son's life in the balance, Collette chooses to return home with the untenable task of betraying her own family. But when the brothers suspect an informant is in their midst, Collette finds both herself and family in mortal danger. Strong performances and some swift direction keep this nail-biting thriller moving thoroughly engaging until the bitter end.

Extras include some audio commentary as well as the film's theatrical trailer.

Galapagos 3D

3D-Media / 2012 / 60 Minutes / Not rated

Blu-ray Release Date: August 20, 2013

If you're a fan of nature films, you're in for a treat with the spectacular look at the mysterious and faraway land of the Galapagos, in 'Galapagos 3D'. The television series produced by the Sky 3D network in the UK features a narration by David Attenborough with some truly spectacular visuals. Far away from the mainland of Ecuador are the forbidding islands of the Galapagos. Through the unique landscape and an exceptional species richness, these volcanic islands are both unique and exciting with a plethora of fascinating wildlife unique to this part of the globe.

Attenborough returns to the Galápagos Islands for the fourth time in his career to explain the origins and evolution of this magical locale. Unlike here in the states, UK has been utilizing 3D programming for some time, as this series is one of the pioneers of the technology using 3D cameras for underwater filming. It also features the first known footage of the Galápagos pink land iguana, a new species of lizard identified in 2009, and Attenborough's encounter with Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island tortoise, filmed just before the animal's death. Although engaging and often enlightening, this series lacks some of the luster of the more explosive IMAX nature documentaries, however don't let that deter you from this fascinating visit to one of the most talked about island formations on earth.

Extras are limited to previews of other SKY 3D network properties.


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