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New on DVD and Blu-ray Week of February 17-23

View Harley Lond's Profile

By Harley Lond - 02/17/15 at 02:11 AM CT

THIS WEEK'S THEATRICAL RELEASES:

"Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance" is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor (Michael Keaton) -- famous for portraying an iconic superhero -- as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. Riggan Thompson was Birdman, a crime-stopping superhero with a beak and a three-film franchise. Now, he's a washed up actor trying to get his career and life back together by opening his own play on Broadway. On the eve of it's opening, the play is close to falling apart and Riggan is forced to sign a younger, egotistical lead actor, whom he despises. What Michael Keaton and Emma Stone bond in the top 2014 drama Birdman. results over the next three days is strange and dark as, leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself. The film is nothing less than an examination of human existence, creativity and aspirations. A tour-de-force performance by Keaton, fabulous directing (by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu), cinematography (by Academy Award-winner Emmanuel Lubezki) and an unforgettable score. Birdman is our pick for best film of the year. Nominated for nine Academy Awards, including best picture, best director, best actor (Michael Keaton), best supporting actor (Edward Norton), best supporting actress (Emma Stone). Winner of a SAG Award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture. Winner of two Golden Globes including best actor in a musical or comedy, best screenplay. Winner of the Darryl F. Zanuck PGA Award for best feature film. Co-stars Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Natalie Gold, Merritt Wever, Lindsay Duncan. From Fox.

Bill Murray has finally come into his own as one of this country's best dramatic actors, and he comes to the fore in "St. Vincent," a bittersweet comedy about a crumpy older man, his Russian prostitute girlfriend and his new neighbors. Maggie (Melissa McCarthy), a single mother, moves into a new home in Brooklyn with her 12-year old son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). Forced to work long hours, she has no choice but to leave Oliver in the care of their new neighbor, Vincent (Murray), a retired curmudgeon with a penchant for alcohol and gambling. An odd friendship soon blossoms between the improbable pair. Together with the pregnant Russian hooker Daka (Naomi Watts in a wonderful role), Vincent brings Oliver along on all the stops that make up his daily routine -- the race track, a strip club and the local dive bar. Vincent helps Oliver grow to become a man, while Oliver begins to see in Vincent something that no one else is able to: a misunderstood man with a good heart. A thoroughly enjoyable -- if predictable -- outing. From The Weinstein Co.

"The Theory of Everything" is the extraordinary story of one of the world's greatest living minds, the renowned astrophysicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who falls deeply in love with fellow Cambridge student Jane Wilde. Once a healthy, active young man, Hawking received an earth-shattering diagnosis at 21 years of age: a rare, early-onset, slow-progressing form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis that has gradually paralyzed him over the decades. With Jane fighting tirelessly by his side, Hawking embarks on his most ambitious scientific work, studying the very thing he now has precious little of -- time. Together, they defy impossible odds, breaking new ground in medicine and science, and achieving more than they could ever have dreamed. Based on Jane Hawking's memoir "Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen." Nominated for five Academy Awards including best picture, best actor and best actress. Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, David Thewlis. From Universal.

"The Interview"" The film that almost sank a studio (Sony, which was hacked by unknown computer whizzes -- most likely not North Korean, but Sony insiders as most cyber-security experts have come to believe -- and which revealed secret e-mails and memos as well as employee social security numbers) comes to DVD and Blu-ray after a short theatrical release (initially, many major theatrical chains refused to run the film for fear of retaliation by the hackers) and a very highly successful VOD and streaming run. Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) run the popular celebrity tabloid TV show "Skylark Tonight." When they discover that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is a fan of the show, they land an interview with him in an attempt to legitimize themselves as journalists. As Dave and Aaron prepare to travel to Pyongyang, their plans change when the CIA recruits them, perhaps the most unlikely candidates, to "take out" Kim Jong-un. From Sony.

Also due this week:

"The Homesman," set in 1854 on the harsh Nebraska frontier. Low-life drifter George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) is rescued by a pious, independent-minded woman named Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank). To pay back his debt, George reluctantly agrees to help Mary transport three women driven mad by the harsh frontier life across the treacherous land -- where a kindly minister's wife (Meryl Streep) has offered them hospice. From Lionsgate ... and "Dumb and Dumber To," a quick and dirty "do-it-for-the-check" film in which Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels reprise their roles as dimwits Lloyd and Harry. Here, the original film's directors, Peter and Bobby Farrelly, take Lloyd and Harry on a road trip 20 years later to find a daughter Harry never knew he had. Nuff said. From Universal.

THIS WEEK'S HIGHLIGHTS:


From Studio Ghibli, the award-winning studio that produced "Spirited Away," "My Neighbor Totoro" and "The Wind Rises," comes "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya" (2014 -- Japan), a powerful and sweeping film that redefines animated storytelling and marks a triumphant highpoint within an extraordinary filmmaking career for director Isao Takahata. Found inside a shining stalk of bamboo The Tale of Princess Kaguya Blu-Ray Cover by an old bamboo cutter and his wife, a tiny girl grows rapidly into an exquisite young lady. The mysterious young princess enthralls all who encounter her -- but ultimately she must confront her fate, the punishment for her crime. With the voices of James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, Chloe Grace Moretz. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Universal ... "An Autumn Afternoon" (1962), the final film from Yasujiro Ozu, was also his last masterpiece, a gently heartbreaking story about a man's dignifed resignation to life's shifting currents and society's modernization. Though widower Shuhei (frequent Ozu leading man Chishu Ryu) has been living comfortably for years with his grown daughter, a series of events leads him to accept and encourage her marriage and departure from their home. As elegantly composed and achingly tender as any of the Japanese master's films, "An Autumn Afternoon" is one of cinema's fondest farewells. New, 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack. In it's Blu-ray debut from The Criterion Collection.

The documentary "The Sixties" (2014) explores the most turbulent decade of the modern era in America. From the Cold War to the War in Vietnam, from the Space Race to the Long March to Freedom and Civil Rights, the events of the 1960s were both dramatic and transformative. The Beatles invaded America, Man landed on the Moon and the Women's, Environmental, Conservative and DVD Cover for The Sixties Gay movements were all born. It was a decade of assassinations and urban riots but also of Woodstock and Haight Ashbury. Television sets were tuned to "The Twilight Zone," "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Rowan and Martinís Laugh-In" while record players spun the songs of Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys. In its examination and portrayal of this most consequential time, this CNN Original Series (which originally began airing in May on CNN) reveals why it was truly "The Decade that Changed the World." Three three-disc set includes 10 episodes: "Television Comes of Age," "The World on the Brink," "The Assassination of President Kennedy," "The War in Vietnam," "A Long March to Freedom," "The British Invasion," "The Space Race," "1968," "The Times They are A-Changiní," "Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'N' Roll." $69.99 from PBS Distribution).

BUZZIN' THE 'B'S:


In "No Tears for the Dead" (2014 -- South Korea), Gon (Jang Dong-gun), abandoned by his mother shortly after immigrating to America, is raised by the mafia and grows up to become a cold-blooded hit man. Though usually flawless in taking out his targets, Gon makes a terrible mistake by killing an innocent young girl. A flood of guilt takes over his life and the situation becomes worse when his boss assigns him the job of killing the young girl's mother -- until he begins the Poster for No Tears for the Dead fight to save her life. From the director of "The Man From Nowhere." On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from CJ Entertainment ... In "Dying of the Light" (2014), starring Nicolas Cage, Anton Yelchin, Alexander Karim and Irene Jacob, Evan Lake (Cage), a veteran CIA agent, has been ordered to retire. But when his protege (Yelchin) uncovers evidence that Lake's nemesis, the terrorist Banir (Karim), has resurfaced, Lake goes rogue, embarking on a perilous, intercontinental mission to eliminate his sworn enemy. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate ... In "V/H/S: Viral" (2015) A police chase after a deranged ice cream truck has captivated the attention of the greater Los Angeles area and dozens of fame-obsessed teens flock to the streets with their video cameras and camera phones, hell-bent on capturing the next viral video. But there is something far more sinister as the teens find themselves the stars of the next video, one where they face their own death. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Magnolia Home Entertainment Magnet Label ... The Horror-thriller "Altar" (2015) follows a family that moves into a timeworn, dilapidated DVD Cover for Altar remote English country mansion in order to restore it to its former splendor. But in the process they awaken the ghosts of the house's original inhabitants, whose curse still looms darkly over the haunted estate. Stars Matthew Modine, Olivia William and Antonia Clarke. From Cinedigm ... Joey Lauren Adams, Elizabeth Gillies, Paul Iacono, Eve Jeffers, Thorsten Kaye, Amaury Nolasco, Keke Palmer, Jeremy Sumpter, Parker Young. When plans for a weekend getaway hit a dead end, a group of close-knit friends finds themselves stranded in unfamiliar territory, pursued by a menacing, bloodthirsty predator in "Animal" (2014). Holed up in an isolated cabin, they turn on one another as tensions mount and long-buried secrets are revealed. Stars Joey Lauren Adams, Elizabeth Gillies, Paul Iacono, Eve Jeffers, Thorsten Kaye, Amaury Nolasco, Keke Palmer, Jeremy Sumpter, Parker Young. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Scream Factory ... During their search for a habitable planet, the last living humans crash-land on a barren world, inhabited by bloodthirsty aliens and mysterious post-apocalyptic warriors in "Survivor" (2014), starring Kevin Sorbo and Danielle Chuchran. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from XLrator Media.

ON THE INDIE FRONT:


"Skating to New York" (2013), starring Connor Jessup, Gage Munroe, Wesley Morgan, Matthew Knight, Dylan Everett, Michelle Nolden and Jason Gedrick, is a contemporary coming-of-age adventure about five boys on a small-town Canadian high school hockey team who live to skate. After losing a big game, they decide to do something never attempted before -- skate across Lake Ontario to New York on the coldest day of the year. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Well Go USA ... In "Hollywood Chaos" (2014), things become chaotic for a naive entertainment reporter living in Hollywood when she's assigned to produce a special segment exposing the decadent lifestyles of her celebrity friends; now she has to choose between advancing her career or protecting her friends' images. Stars Vanessa Jean Simmons, Tyler Lepley, Tangi Miller, Mykel Shannon Jenkins. From Breaking Glass Pictures.

FOR THE FAMILY:


"Easter Family Fun Pack" features six animated favorites: "Prince of Egypt -- The Story of Moses," "Noah's Magic Ark," "The Ten Commandments," "Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors," "Easter in Bunnyland" and "The Great Easter Egg Hunt." $6.95 from Cinedigm ... "Gladiators of Rome" (2012 -- Italy) is an animated adventure that follows Timo, a student at the Gladiators' Academy in Rome, who has no desire to become a legendary gladiator like his stepfather. That is, until the mesmerizing Lucilla walks into his life. With the help of an unlikely band of sidekicks, Timo is determined to be the gladiator of her dreams and embarks on an action-packed journey to become the Colosseum's first victor. From Paramount.

SPECIAL INTEREST:


Acclaimed director Steve James ("Hoop Dreams") and executive producers Martin Scorsese and Steven Zaillian were the movers and shakers behind the very important documentary "Life Itself" (2014) that recounts the inspiring and entertaining life of world-renowned film critic and social commentator Roger Ebert -- a story that is by turns personal, funny, painful, and transcendent. Based on his bestselling memoir of the same name, "Life Itself" explores the legacy of Ebert's life, from his Pulitzer Prize-winning film criticism at the Chicago Sun-Times to becoming one of the most influential cultural voices in America. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Magnolia Home Entertainment ... DVD Cover for Dick: The Documentary In August 2008, filmmaker Brian Fender posted an add on Craigslist to solicit volunteers for a documentary project. He invited "subjects" into his living room to strip down and reveal themselves physically and emotionally through personal stories about their relationship to their penises. Fender interviewed a vast cross-section of anonymous, naked men about their prized appendage: from monks to transsexuals to ex-marines to designers, ranging in age from 21 to 80. Hoping to demystify, illuminate, and even celebrate this "member" in our society, this DIY documentary -- "Dick: The Documentary" (2013) -- is a candid exploration of what it means to have a dick. From IndiePix Films.

FROM TV TO DVD:


"The Chair" (2014) is a five-disc set with 10 episodes of the STARZ unscripted series that follows two first-time filmmakers (Shane Dawson and Anna Martemucci) through the ups and downs of bringing a full-length feature to the screen. Charts the path of the two directors through the process of bringing their first feature to the screen -- each armed with the same script. The DVD Cover for The Chair series documents - with an unflinching eye - the creation, marketing and theatrical release of the two adaptations. Both directors are given the same budget, and both versions use locations in the same city. Through online voting, the audience determines which director will be awarded $250,000. Includes the final movies made for the competition, "Not Cool" and "Hollidaysburg." $19.98 from Anchor Bay ... "Game of Thrones: The Complete Fourth Season" (2014), which broke ratings records and topped "The Sopranos" to become the most popular show in the HBO's history, was nominated for 19 Emmy awards including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Peter Dinklage) and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Lena Headey). "Game of Thrones" -- based on George R.R. Martin's best-selling book series "A Song of Ice and Fire" -- follows the noble families of Westeros as they battle for control of the Seven Kingdoms. Game of Thrones: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-Ray Cover In Season 4, with 10 episodes, while the Lannisters' hold on the Iron Throne remains intact, new and ongoing threats from the south, north and east threaten to tip the scales. As Stannis Baratheon and Daenerys Targaryen continue to grow their respective armies, the arrival of the Lannister-loathing "Red Viper of Dorne" poses a more immediate danger. In the north, the depleted Night's Watch seems overmatched against the advances of Mance Rayder's army of wildlings, which in turn is being trailed by an even more formidable foe: the undead White Walkers. Firom HBO ... "Wahlburgers: The Complete Second Season" (2014) is a single-disc set with nine episodes, $19.98 from Lionsgate.

Check out other February 17-23 DVD releases and reviews at OnVideo.

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