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New on DVD and Blu-ray Week of January 20-26

View Harley Lond's Profile

By Harley Lond - 01/20/15 at 03:54 AM CT

THIS WEEK'S THEATRICAL RELEASES:

"Lucy": From "La Femme Nikita" to "Leon: The Professional" to "The Fifth Element," writer-director Luc Besson has created some of the most memorable female action heroes in recent cinema. Now he's teamed with sexy diva Scarlett Johansson (who was devilishly scary in last year's "Under the Skin") to create another tough female protagonist, one who uses brain power to take on the bad guys and wreak havoc on the men who have done her wrong. Johansson stars Scarlett Johansson gets cyber-natural in the top 2014 sci-fi film Lucy. as Lucy, a party girl living in Taipei, Taiwan, who is kidnapped by a South Korean drug cartel and forced to smuggle a dangerous drug in her abdomen; the experimental drug leaks into her body and alters her DNA so that she begins using more than the normal 10% of her brainpower. As she progresses to use more and more of her brain, she develops enhanced physical and mental powers, including the ability to control electromagnetic communication; she becomes telepathic and develops telekinetic power; soon she reaches the 100% mark, and evolves into a super-brilliant, otherworldly creature that merges with the universe. And Along the way she -- naturally -- gets even with the bad guys. Besson -- who wrote the screenplay -- directs with wit, humor and intelligence; he intersperses Lucy's travails with lectures by a noted brain scientist, played by Morgan Freeman, juxtaposing science fiction with science fact. Johansson's performance moves from soft and gentle to hard and murderous with ease; she's a pleasure to watch. "Lucy" is an entertaining and fun ride with fabulous visuals and special effects. There are some corny parts -- Besson plays around with animal images and the comparison of Johansson's Lucy with the oldest human in the fossil record, also named "Lucy" -- but heck, all's fair in love and filmmaking, especially if it works. And it does. The DVD adds a neat featurette called "Cerebral Capacity The True Science of Lucy," that discusses -- and actually debunks -- some of the issues brought up in the film; the Blu-ray adds a making-of featurette, "The Evolution of Lucy." From Universal.

"The Boxtrolls" is a quirky stop motion animated fantasy-comedy film set at the beginning of the 19th century that revolves around a group of mischievous and good-hearted trolls who hide in boxes and come out at night to rummage through the trash of the small town of Cheesebridge. The Boxtrolls -- who build unique inventions with their nightly findings and have lovingly raised a human boy named Eggs -- are threatened by a nasty villain -- the evil Archibald Snatcher -- who has spread the rumor that the Boxtrolls kidnap and kill young children and, with the blessing of the town's elders, sets out to capture them one-by-one. Only Eggs -- and the feisty daughter of the town;s mayor -- can save the day. Though the visuals are stunning -- animated steam punk comes to mind as the best description -- the storyline is pretty conventional and predictable, and there's not a heck of a lot to keep you interested. It does stand, however, as a suitable surreal antidote to all the brainless animation of the "How to Raise Your Dragon," "Big Hero 6," "Penguins of Madagascar," "Rio 2" and "Planes: Fire & Rescue" ilk. With the voices of Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan and Simon Pegg. Extras include several behind-the-scenes featurettes. From Universal.

Also due this week: The gritty crime drama "The Drop" and "Annabelle," the creepy prequel to "The Conjuring."

THIS WEEK'S HIGHLIGHT:


Due this week on DVD and Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection is "The Palm Beach Story" (1942). This wild tale of wacky wedlock from Preston Sturges takes off like a rocket and never lets up. Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert play Tom and Gerry, a married New York couple on the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray Cover for The Palm Beach Story skids, financially and romantically. With Tom hot on her trail, Gerry takes off for Florida on a mission to solve the pair's money troubles, which she accomplishes in a highly unorthodox manner. A mix of the witty and the utterly absurd, "The Palm Beach Story" is a high watermark of Sturges's brand of physical comedy and verbal repartee, featuring sparkling performances from its leads as well as hilarious supporting turns from Rudy Vallee and Mary Astor as a brother and a sister ensnared in Tom and Gerry's high jinks. New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.

BUZZIN' THE 'B'S:


In "A Bet's a Bet (aka The Opposite Sex)" (2014), starring Kristin Chenoweth, Jennifer Finnigan, Mena Suvari, Geoff Stults and Josh Hopkins, to Vince (Stults), a successful divorce attorney who considers dating just another conquest, everything in life is a competition and losing is unacceptable He meets his match in intensely competitive Jane (Suvari), and they soon DVD Cover for A Bet's a Bet partake in a series of bets where the loser's fate is at the mercy of the winner. From Cinedigm ... "Rudderless" (2014), directed by William H. Macy and starring Billy Crudup, Anton Yelchin, Felicity Huffman, Jamie Chung, Selena Gomez and Laurence Fishburne, is the story of Sam, a father (Crudup) whose life is torn apart by the sudden death of his son. When Sam discovers a box filled with his son's demo tapes and lyrics, his own child's musical talent is a revelation for him. Sam learns each song and eventually musters the will to perform one at a local bar. When Quentin (Yelchin), a young musician in the audience, is captivated by the song, the unlikely duo forms a rock band that becomes surprisingly popular and revitalizes both of their lives. From Paramount ... In "Tyler Perry's Madea's Tough Love" (2014) -- Perry's first animated film -- Madea is sentenced to community service after a hilarious run-in with the law. Determined to do good for the 'hood, Madea enlists Aunt Bam and Uncle Joe to try and save the Moms Mabley Youth Center from being shut down. With her irresistible sass and wisdom, Madea rallies the local kids to make a stand -- and proves that behind her tough exterior is a whole lot of love. From Lionsgate ... DVD Cover for Coherence Strange things begin to happen when a group of friends gather for a dinner party on an evening when a comet is passing overhead in "Coherence" (2013), starring Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon and Lorene Scafaria. From Oscilloscope Laboratories ... When timid college student Zoe witnesses a hit-and-run, the dying victim gives her a strange amulet. Suddenly, all those who have offended Zoe in her life begin dying horrible deaths at the hands of a malicious gnome in "Gnome Alone" (2014), starring Verne Troyer and Kerry Knuppe. From Lionsgate ... Following the fall of the Roman Empire, a Roman woman plots to make her son the new Emperor and to fulfill the former glory of the city in "Lost Legion" (2015), starring Tom McKay, Michelle Lukes, Brian Caspe and Jim High. From Lionsgate ... Zero Theorem Blu-Ray Cover"The Zero Theorem" (2014), directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Christoph Waltz, Matt Damon, Tilda Swinton, David Thewlis and Melanie Thierry, is a sci-fi adventure in which a computer hacker whose goal is to discover the reason for human existence continually finds his work interrupted when Management sends a teenager and lusty love interest to distract him. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Well Go USA ... In the fall of 1976, a small psychology lab doing experiments in ESP in Pennsylvania became the unwitting home to the only government-confirmed case of possession. The U.S. military assumed control of the lab under orders of national security and, soon after, implemented measures aimed at weaponizing the entity. The details of the inexplicable events that occurred are being made public after remaining classified for nearly 40 years in "The Atticus Institute" (2015), starring Ryan Kihlstedt, William Mapother, Harry Groener, Rob Kerkovich, John Rubinstein and Sharon Maughan. On DVD, Blu-ray from Anchor Bay ... The Pirates Blu-Ray Cover On the eve of the founding of the Joseon Dynasty in 1388, an unprecedented robbery shocks the nation-in-waiting: a whale has swallowed the Emperor's Royal Seal and a bounty placed on its retrieval. Now, every infamous gang of thieves, thugs, pirates and government agents take to the seas, battling the elements, creatures of the deep, and each other to possess reward in "The Pirates" (2014 -- South Korea) on DVD, Blu-ray Disc, Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Well Go USA ... In 1983, a naive man with lethal narcotics hidden in his stomach is detained by Australian Federal Police. Alone and afraid, "The Mule" (2014) makes a desperate choice: to defy his bodily functions and withhold the evidence ... literally, becoming a "human time- bomb" and dragging cops, criminals, lawyers and his mother into his impossible escapade. Inspired by true events. Stars Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson and Jaime Browne. On DVD, Blu-ray from XLrator Media.

ON THE INDIE FRONT:


In "Life's a Breeze" (2013), starring Kelly Thornton, Fionnula Flanagan, Pat Shortt and Eva Birthistle, an Irish family is turned upside down when Nan's (Fionnula Flanagan) unemployed slacker son Colm (Pat Shortt) and his niece Emma (Kelly Thornton) make a well-intended attempt to DVD Cover for Life's a Breeze clean out her house and accidentally trash the mattress where she's been stashing her life savings. Now they must overcome their many differences to lead their family in a race against time to find a lost fortune. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Magnolia Home Entertainment ... "Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon" (1998), starring Derek Jacobi, Daniel Craig and Tilda Swinton, is John Maybury's searing portrait of the English painter Francis Bacon (Derek Jacobi) at the height of his fame in the 1960s. It'd one of the nastiest and most truthful portraits of the artist-as-monster ever filmed: the story of the colossally self-absorbed painter and his self-destructive younger lover, George Dyer, a former small time crook.On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Strand Releasing ... DVD Cover for A Little Game Ostracized at her posh new uptown school and shaken by the death of her beloved grandmother, a 10-year-old downtown girl finds an unlikely mentor in the form of an irascible chess-master, who uses the game to teach lessons in resilience, perseverance, and how to embrace inevitable change in "A Little Game" (2014), starring Ralph Macchio, Janeane Garofalo, F. Murray Abraham, Rachel Dratch and Olympia Dukakis. From ARC Entertainment ... In "White Bird in a Blizzard" (2014), starring Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Shiloh Fernandez, Gabourey Sidibe and Thomas Jane, Kat Connors' perfect homemaker mother, Eve, a beautiful, enigmatic, and haunted woman, disappears -- just as Kat is discovering and relishing her newfound sexuality. Having lived for so long in a stifled, emotionally repressed household, she barely registers her mother's absence and certainly doesn't blame her doormat of a father, Brock, for the loss. In fact, it's almost a relief. But as time passes, Kat begins to come to grips with how deeply Eve's disappearance has affected her. Returning home on a break from college, she finds herself confronted with the truth about her mother's departure, and her own denial about the events surrounding it. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Magnolia Home Entertainment.

FOREIGN:


May in the Summer Blu-Ray Cover In "May in the Summer" (2013 -- Jordan), starring Cherien Dabis, Alexander Siddig, Hiam Abbass and Bill Pullman, a young woman who has it all - intelligence, beauty, rave reviews for her new book returns to her hometown of Amman, Jordan, for her wedding to a distinguished New York scholar. But the cracks in her seemingly perfect life begin to show: Her born-again Christian mother disapproves of her fiance's Muslim faith, her sisters revert to behaving like rebellious teens as their estranged father awkwardly attempts to make amends. Confronted with the wounds of her parents' broken relationship and the clash of old-world and modern values, she begins to question the direction of her life. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Cohen Media Group.

FROM TV TO DVD:


"Little House on the Prairie - Season Four Deluxe Remastered Edition" (1977-78) is a five-disc set with 22 newly restored and remastered uncut broadcast-length episodes. The adventure and DVD Cover for Little House on the Prarie - Season Four Deluxe Remastered Edition drama continues for the beloved Ingalls family: Life on the frontier brings trials and triumphs that includes a disappointing trip to Chicago, a devastating drowning followed by Laura's kidnapping, crime and outlaws in Walnut Grove, love and marriage for Nellie, a surprise family inheritance, Caroline's pregnancy, Mary's tragic blindness and more. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc, from Lionsgate ... "Swamp People: Season 5" (2014) is a five-disc set with 22 episodes, $24.98. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate.

Check out other January 20-26 DVD releases and reviews at OnVideo.

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