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DVd Update for week of Fri., Oct. 12

Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Fri., Oct. 12:

 

    Nominated for an Academy Award, “A Cat in Paris” is a visually stunning caper, an animated film noir that’s set in shadow-drenched alleyways with a thrilling climax atop Notre Dame Cathedral – with the voices of Marcia Gay Harden, Anjelica Huston and Matthew Mondine

    Opening in theaters, VOD and digital platforms, “Decoding Deepak” is a one-year odyssey of discovery by filmmaker/journalist Gotham Chopra of his father – Deepak Chopra, one of modern media and pop culture’s most ubiquitous figures.

    “The Giant Mechanical Man” is an optimistic, romantic comedy, starring Chris Messina as a dedicated, silver-painted street performer and Malin Akerman as a zoo concession worker. More realistic and unflinching, the intoxicated “Crazy Eyes” has been described as “Californication” marinated in booze.

    Inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s play “La Ronde,” Alexis Lloyd’s “30 Beats” follows an ensemble of New Yorkers, 10 people whose lives interconnect through life-changing sexual encounters during a summer heat wave. And in “We are the Hartmans” Richard Chamberlain plays a pot-smoking bar owner facing eviction, foretelling the Occupy Wall Street Protests.

    Desperately trying to transform writer Edgar Allen Poe into an American version of Sherlock Holmes, John Cusack stars in “The Raven,” a ridiculous, tedious historical fantasy that revolves around a macabre hunt for a serial killer.

    Baseball fans should enjoy  “The World Series: History of the Fall Classic,” a four-disc set that captures and comprehensively chronicles landmark moments from every era.

    The Parents’ Foundation recently honored the all new “Thomas & Friends: Blue Mountain Mystery – The Movie” with its prestigious “recommendation” award, as youngsters help the engines track down clues, discover a lost engine and reveal the real power of friendship.

     “Big Top Scooby-Doo!” tales viewers on an exciting circus-themed adventure, while “Happiness Is…Peanuts: Go, Snoopy, Go” finds Charlie Brown’s baseball team gearing up for a new season.

    PICK OF THE WEEK: Insanely fun and shameless, “Rock of Ages” is the screen adaptation of Broadway’s raucous rock musical, riffing on Hollywood’s famous Sunset Strip, back in 1987 – featuring Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand – with Tom Cruise as the legendary, debauched rock god/frontman.

DVD Update for week of Oct. 5

Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Fri., Oct. 5:

 

    In “People Like Us,” when a glib trade negotiator (Chris Pine) realizes he’s in deep trouble with the FTC, he returns home, only to discover he has a half-sister (Olivia Wilde) he never knew existed.

    More family trouble erupts in the comedy/drama “Peace, Love and Misunderstanding,” as a devastated Manhattan lawyer (Catherine Keener) heads upstate to Woodstock with her two teens (Elizabeth Olsen, Nat Wolff) to stay with her estranged flower-child mother (Jane Fonda).

    Exploring an action-packed 24 hours in the life of a London drug dealer, “Shifty” is a British crime drama about the underworld culture he inhabits. And exiled to Germany’s remote Carpathian Mountains, a hitman-in-hiding must survive in “Snowman’s Land.”

    If you crave documentaries, “Hungry For Change” challenges what you think you know about food, weight loss and nutrition. “Beatles Stories” captures new stories about the most influential band of all time, and “David Blaine: A Decade of Magic” contains Blaine’s three TV specials.

   Michelle Yeoh embodies Burma’s iconic freedom fighter/ Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi in Luc Besson’s reverential “The Lady” with David Thewlis as her devoted, London-based husband. And a Muslim Algerian immigrant living in Vichy France befriends a Jewish singer and joins the Resistance in the W.W. II French thriller “Free Men.”

     From sublime to ridiculous, “Red Lights,” starring Sigourney Weaver, Cillian Murphy and Robert De Niro, is a psychological thriller about how fraudulent psychics, ghost whisperers and faith healers dupe the gullible public. A family returns to their favorite winter getaway for some peaceful ice fishing, little suspecting that they’re prime bait for a hideous underwater creature in “Hypothermia.” And it’s “Inglorious Basterds” meets “Spaceballs” as The Reich strikes back in the sci-fi comedy “Iron Sky,” when a secret Nazi space program plots revenge from the Dark Side of the Moon.

    For youngsters, “Tom & Jerry: Robin Hood and His Merry Mouse” is a fun-filled, animated take on the classic story.

    PICK OF THE WEEK:  Slyly laced with supernatural humor, Tim Burton’s “Dark Shadows” brings back the classic cult TV series with deliciously demonic Johnny Depp as gothic vampire Barnabas Collins.

DVD Update for week of Fri., Sept 28

Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Fri., Sept. 28:

 

    Independent writer/director Whit Stillman (“Metropolitan,” “Barcelona”) once again focuses on the articulate, preppie world of the ‘urban haute bourgeoise’ in “Damsels in Distress,” a caustic, whimsical, highly stylized and slightly surreal comedy set at (fictional) Seven Oaks College.

    Samuel L. Jackson plays an ex-con trying to go straight in “The Samaritan,” a twist-filled crime drama, and a fairytale love story ends in the thriller “Last Will,” starring Tatum O’Neal and Tom Berenger.

    For comedy, there’s “St. Roz,” the magical story of a statue with miraculous weight-loss powers that unexpectedly arrives in a poor parish church.

    Director Ice T’s performance documentary “Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap” includes Chuck D, Grandmaster Caz, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Melle Mel, Q-Tip, Redman, Mos Def, Afrika Bambaataa, B Real, Immortal Technique, Ice Cube, MC Lyte, Nas, Dr. Dre, KRS One, Common and Kanye West.

    Looking for golf tips from the other side of the bag? Cathy Irby Durant’s “Through the Eyes of a Caddy” features masters caddy Carl Jackson.

    On a serious note, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lawrence Wright explores the underbelly of the Middle East in “My Trip to Al-Qaeda,” which premiered last year on HBO. And Nick Polizzi’s “The Sacred Science” tracks eight patients living in seclusion for one month in the heart of the Amazon jungle, participating in the powerful healing practices of Peru’s indigenous medicine men.

    Based on the internationally acclaimed Danish TV series, “Klown” follows two friends (Frank Hvam, Casper Christensen) as they embark on a debauched, sex-mad river tour of their countryside only to be derailed when Hvam abducts his pregnant girlfriend’s 12 year-old nephew in a misguided attempt to prove his merit as a potential father; Todd Phillips (“The Hangover) is already planning a Hollywood remake.

    For kids, “Best of Wubbzy” contains seven popular episodes, while “Tom & Jerry’s: Tricks and Treats” launches the Halloween season.

    PICK OF THE WEEK: Amusing and entertaining “Marvel’s The Avengers” is an action-adventure in which Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) joins with Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) to stop Thor’s brazen, bitter brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) from summoning intergalactic invaders.

DVD Update for week of Sept. 21

Susan Granger’s DVD update for week of Fri., Sept. 21:

 

    Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) slyly subverts all your spooky horror movie expectations with his macabre “Cabin in the Woods,” revealing what really may be lurking in the darkness, while “The Revenant” is a horror comedy about an American soldier killed in Iraq who stuns his slacker buddy when he rises from the grave as a sort of undead zombie/vampire hybrid with an insatiable thirst for blood.

    Ethan Hawke and Kristin Scott Thomas star in Pawel Pawlikowski’s psychological thriller “Woman in the Fifth,” set in Paris and dealing with themes of artistic inspiration and the dark, frustration that comes from having ideas stunted by personal issues and/or social constraints.

    In “Hysteria,” Victorian-era London is all a-twitter when Dr. Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) treats his repressed female patients’ nervous diseases by utilizing his new invention:  the electric vibrator.

    Reminiscent of “The Blackboard Jungle,” Tony Kaye’s soulful, surrealistic “Detachment” is a scathing indictment of our public school system, focusing on the grim, nightmarish experiences of a high school substitute teacher (Adrien Brody).

    Aimed at fanatic preteens, the documentary “Katy Perry: Part of Me” celebrates the sparkly, sequined singer whose childhood dream of becoming a pop star came true.

    Set in Cuba, 1948, the animated, Oscar-nominated “Chico & Rita” revolves around an ambitious young piano player and a beautiful singer named Rita who has an extraordinary voice; music and desire unite them as they chase their dreams from Havana to New York, Hollywood to Paris, in an epic story spanning six decades.

    Gianni Di Gregorio’s “Salt of Life” serves up wistful mid-life infatuations and love – Italian style. And from Norwegian director Joachim Trier, “Oslo August 31” is the haunting, cautionary story of a resourceful 34 year-old man with a very dark mind, dramatizing the perils of drug addiction.

    PICK OF THE WEEK: Culture shock lies in store for cash-strapped British seniors (Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton) who board a plane from London to Jaipur, ready to embark on the adventurous third act of their lives in the delightfully droll “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

DVD Update for week of Sept. 14

Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Fri., Sept. 14:

Give “Piranha 3DD” credit for truth in advertising. In this tacky horror-comedy sequel, a marine biologist discovers that deadly, supersized piranha have found their way into The Big Wet, a mature-themed water park designed by her sleazy stepfather.

Rutger Hauer stars in “The Heineken Kidnapping,” a fact-based thriller, centered on how the beer baron behind the Dutch brewing giant plotted revenge, turning predators into prey.

There are three new ‘chick flicks.’ In “Lola Versus,” Greta Gerwig stars as a narcissistic New Yorker whose life falls apart as her 30th birthday approaches, while Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks and Anna Kendrick encounter reproductive angst in “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” And “Girl in Progress” is a sudsy melodrama about a self-absorbed Seattle single mom (Eva Mendes).

Andy Garcia stars in “For Greater Glory,” an inspirational, historical drama about Mexico’s Cristero War (1926-1929), when Roman Catholics rebelled against the government’s repression of their religion. And the Christian-themed “October Baby” delivers an anti-abortion message.

Though divided by race, class and dysfunctional relationships, “Game of Life” shows how a children’s soccer team links five families living in Los Angeles as they unite in a common goal.

“The Tim Burton Blu-ray Collection” includes “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” “Batman,” “Batman Returns,” “Beetlejuice,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride” and “Mars Attacks!”  “The Complete Hammer House of Horror” encompasses all 13 episodes in one five-disc collector’s edition. And “The Magic School Bus: The Complete Series” celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Koji Fukada’s Japanese comedy “Hospitalite” tells the story of a middle-class family in Tokyo whose life is turned upside down by the arrival of a mysterious new boarder and his ne’er-do-well visitors. And “Polisse” is Maiwenn’s French crime drama set in the Child Protection Unit in Paris, where weary detectives coax horrible tales from confused children, pedophile fathers and sobbing mothers.

PICK OF THE WEEK: “Snow White and the Huntsman” is a sumptuous yet grimly revisionist Grimm fantasy in which the vain, scheming Queen (Charlize Theron) is determined to destroy the alabaster-skinned, ruby-lipped feminist heroine (Kristen Stewart).

DVD update for Sept. 7

Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Fri., Sept. 7:

 

    Nicholas Stoller’s comedy “The Five-Year Engagement,” starring Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, shows what happens when a couple’s career choices challenge their romantic commitment.

    Friendship knows no boundaries in Nathan Adloff’s  “Nate & Margaret,” as a gay 19 year-old film student and a 52 year-old spinster find their close working relationship challenged by other pursuits.

    Boaz Yakin’s action/crime-thriller “Safe” incorporates so many elements of Jason Statham’s “Transporter” franchise that it’s hard to tell them apart – but, this time, a precocious 12 year-old math prodigy is abducted from Beijing and forced to work for New York’s Chinese Triads.

    Adapting Rachel Klein’s young adult novel, “The Moth Diaries,” Mary Harron directs this chilling Gothic story of 16 year-old Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) who’s haunted by her father’s recent suicide and records her most intimate thoughts in a diary at a creepy girls’ prep school.

    In “The Highest Pass,” Adam Schomer meets a guru Anand Mehrotra and they take a motorcycle expedition on the highest passes of the Himalayas in Northern India; over 21 days and up to an elevation of 18,000 ft., they delve into their deeper selves.

    “Touchback” is a family-friendly, inspirational sports drama, exploring a unique opportunity for a second chance to live the life you’ve always wanted, and “Ballplayer: Pelotero” is a documentary about Major League Baseball (MLB) training camps in the Dominican Republic.

    Vintage TV fans will enjoy “’50s TV Classics,” a three-disc collection featuring Bob Hope, Ed Sullivan, Milton Berle, Dinah Shore, Lawrence Welk, Red Skelton and others.

    In Spanish with English subtitles, “Penumbra” is a supernatural shocker from Argentina’s new horror hit-makers, the Garcia Bogliano brothers.

    PICKS OF THE WEEK; Lee Hirsch’s controversial documentary “Bully” tackles our national bullying epidemic, personalizing a problem that goes beyond racial, ethnic, sexual and socio-economic realms. Using a case-study format, it focuses on five victim, relating their poignant stories. Recommended for pre-teens, teens and their parents, perhaps opening a dialogue among family members. And “Harry Potter Wizard’s Collection” is a 31-disc set, including all eight movies in Blu-ray, DVD and UltaViolet – with nearly four hours of bonus features.

DVD Update for week of Aug. 31

Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Friday, August 31

 

    Lawrence Kasdan’s “Darling Companion” is a mildly amusing comedy with Diane Keaton and Kevin Line as a couple whose marital problems surface when he loses the bedraggled dog that she’d rescued in Denver during a hike near their vacation home in the Rockies.

    Riffing on comedian Steve Harvey’s humorous dating advice book, “Think Like a Man” explores the differences between the way men and women view sex and romantic relationships.

    Based on Nicolas Sparks’ sappy, sentimental novel, “The Lucky One” introduces a Marine (Zac Efron) who credits his survival in Iraq to a photograph he found after a skirmish with insurgents and follows his search for the beautiful blonde (Taylor Schilling) posing in front of a lighthouse.

    Inspired by the board game, “Battleship” is a flimsy, formulaic, cliché-riddled popcorn picture as Taylor Kitsch and pop star Rihanna battle an alien attack with Transformer”-like special effects.

    Daniel Lam’s “The Viral Factor” tries to be an action movie and a soap opera but succeeds at neither, churning on about unleashing a kind of smallpox virus, hoping to profit from vaccine sales.

    “Baseball’s Greatest Games” series  introduces “San Francisco Giants First Perfect Game,” and “The Essential Games” series now includes the Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs.

    Narrated by Jude Law, “Beyond Time: William Turnbull” explores the life and work of the artist recognized as one of the pioneers of modernism in Britain.

    In Norwegian & Danish with English subtitles, “Headhunters” is a dark comedy thriller about an Oslo corporate recruiter who’s also an art thief. And “Monsieur Lazhar” is an eloquent French-Canadian drama about an Algerian immigrant who sought political asylum in Quebec and is hired as a substitute after another teacher commits suicide.

    “Looney Tunes: The Chuck Jones Mouse Chronicles” showcases the daring adventures of those mischievous mice, and “Bob the Builder: The Ultimate Can-Do Crew Collection” teaches teamwork.

    PICK OF THE WEEK: “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” is the swashbuckling animated tale of a bumbling Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant) whose chances of winning the coveted Pirate of the Year Award increase when he and his underachieving shipmates encounter a research ship carrying Charles Darwin.

DVD Update for week of Aug, 24

Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Fri., Aug. 24:

 

    Disneynature’s “Chimpanzee” is a heart-warming, inspirational documentary that explores the social structure of a tribe of 35 simians living in the Tai rainforest on Africa’s Ivory Coast, while Tim Allen’s banal, cloyingly cute narration anthropomorphizes the primates, creating protagonists and villains.

    Jack Black plays funeral director “Bernie” Tiede in Richard Linklater’s weirdly wacky adaptation of a true-crime story that took place in East Texas – with Shirley MacLaine as his benefactor and victim.

    Cheeky Sasha Baron Cohen’s “The Dictator” is disappointingly dumb and infantile, as he plays General Admiral Haffaz Aladeen, ruler of oil-rich Wadiya, with Ben Kingsley as his Security Chief and Procurer of Compliant Women.

    Jennifer Connelly and Ed Harris star in Dustin Lance Black’s small-town American drama “Virginia,” about a charming yet mentally ill mother whose greatest love is her protector and illegitimate son.

    Set in in picturesque Sedona, Arizona, “Sedona” is Tommy Stovall’s quirky, mystical adventure about fining miracles – featuring Frances Fisher, Seth Peterson and Christopher Atkins.

    Uncompromising director Abel Ferrara’s “4:44 Last Day on Earth” finds Willem Dafoe and Shanyn Leigh as Manhattan artists facing doom together as the world comes to an end because of the destruction of the ozone layer,

    Margaret Atwood’s non-fiction best-seller “Some Debts Can’t Be Paid With Money” is the basis for a riveting documentary on debt in its various forms: societal, environmental, spiritual and criminal. And Saul Landau’s landmark documentary “Fidel” provides a unique view of Cuba’s controversial and polarizing leader with fascinating archival footage of the Bay of Pigs invasion and scenes of Che Guevara, alongside interviews with political prisoners.

    In Spanish with English subtitles, “Bonsai” is Chilean Alejandro Zambra’s drolly tender, touching story of love, books and plants.

    For pre-schoolers, there’s “Angelina Ballerina: Dreams Do Come True” and “Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation.:

    PICK OF THE WEEK: Acclaimed as one of last year’s best foreign films, “A Separation” is an enigmatic meditation on marital conflict in contemporary Iran, where two couples appear before a judge to defend themselves along with their legal, moral and religious beliefs in family court.

DVD Update for week of Aug. 17

Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Fri., Aug. 17:  

    Connecticut lithographer Ann Chernow is one of four artists explaining the link between print art and political protest in Manfred Kirscheimer’s documentary “Art Is…the Permanent Revolution,” joining etcher Sigmund Abeles, woodcut artist Paul Marcus and master printer James Reed.

    Jane Seymour stars as the mother in “Lake Effects,” a heartwarming family story about two sisters from a small lakeside town whose lives have drifted apart until their father’s death reunites them – and two young women help a third cope with single motherhood in “Life Happens,” a female slacker comedy.

    If you like brutal, bloody horror films, Ben Wheatley’s “Kill List” follows a hitman (Neil Maskell) who reluctantly takes on an three-part assignment with no idea of the horror that awaits not only his targets but himself.  And “Assassin’s Bullet” stars Christian Slater as a former FBI field agent who’s summoned by the US Ambassador (Donald Sutherland) in Bulgaria to find an unknown vigilante who’s killing high-priority Muslim terrorists from America’s Most Wanted list in Europe.

    In Gareth Evans’s action-packed “The Raid: Redemption,” a rookie member of a Special Forces unit goes after a notorious drug lord in a rundown tenement that’s a sanctuary for gangs, killers, rapists and thieves; in Indonesian with English subtitles, the English remake is already in development.

    In their first-ever British tour, “Jay and Silent Bob Tea Bag the U.K.,” Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith from “Clerks” perform live on-stage in front of sold-out crowds in London, Manchester and Edinburgh.

    In Portuguese with English subtitles, Fabio Barreto’s “Lula, Son of Brazil” chronicles the early years of Brazil’s beloved leader, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who rose from poverty to govern the largest nation in Latin America.

   For pre-schoolers, there’s “Fireman Sam: Heroic Rescue Adventures,” “Chugginton’s Traintastic Adventures” and “Elmo’s Alphabet Challenge.”

    PICK OF THE WEEK:  With Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, “The Hunger Games” cinematically adapts the first of Suzanne Collins’s young adult novels, set in a dystopian future. It’s an acerbic indictment of our voyeuristic obsession with reality television, delivering a pulse-pounding, pop culture message of female empowerment.

DVD Update for week of Aug. 10

Susan Granger’s DVD Update for week of Fri., August 10

 

    Robert Pattinson’s “Twilight” fans may enjoy “Bel Ami,” in which he plays a cunning, callow social climber in Belle Epoque Paris who quaffs Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas and Cristina Ricci like glasses of absinthe.

    Winner of three Audience Awards, Justin Lerner’s “Girlfriend” is a compassionate, coming-of-age drama about a young man (Evan Sneider) with Down Syndrome who decides to use his inherited money to help a deeply in-debt single mother (Shannon Woodward) facing eviction.

    In the earnest comedy “Blues Like Jazz,” a pious 19 year-old (Marshall Allman) impulsively decides to escape his Texas Baptist upbringing, enrolling at progressive Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

    “Surviving High School” is a collection of four Lifetime original movies, tackling everything from drinking and drugs to prom crushes, racial equality and bullying. It’s a high school endurance kit!

    Celebrated author H.P. Lovecraft’s classic tale of alien horror “The Whisperer in the Darkness” finds Professor Albert Wilmarth investigating legends of strange creatures in the remote Virginia hills and the truth that lurks beneath the legends.

    There’s the 25th anniversary edition of Stanley Kubrick’s intense Vietnam War saga “Full Metal Jacket,” and Kevin Macdonald’s documentary “Marley” profiles the renowned Rastafarian reggae artist from Jamaica, one of the first musical superstars to emerge from the Third World.

    “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale” is Wei- Te-Sheng’s Taiwanese historical epic with English subtitles, reclaiming an extraordinary episode in which aboriginal tribes and Han Chinese immigrants plotted rebellion against their Japanese colonial masters.

    For pre-schoolers, there’s  the animated TV version of “The Cat in the Hat” and  “Fireman Sam: Heroic Rescue Adventures.”

    PICKS OF THE WEEK: Three family films: “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax,” a cautionary environmental fable, and “Mia and the Magoo” from French animator Jacques-Remy Girerd about a young girl who must overcome her fears on a quest to find her father and save the world from destruction. Last but definitely not least, the fanciful “After the Wizard,” re-introduces Oz’s beloved Tin Woodman and Scarecrow who head to modern-day Kansas to find 12 year-old Dorothy in an orphanage.