OnVideo February DVD Reviews

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OnVideo: FEBRUARY's Top Movies


photo for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Based on the best-selling book, the family comedy follows the exploits of young Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) as he experiences the most terrible and horrible day of his young life and wonders if bad things only happen to him. But he discovers he's not alone when his dad (Steve Carell), mom (Jennifer Garner) and family live through their own terrible -- and hilarious -- day. Extras: "Snappy Crocs & Punch Roos: The Australian Outback Party," "Hurricane" by the Vamps music video. Blu-ray adds "Alexander ... In Real Life," "Walkabout: A Video Diary," "And the Delightful, Magnificent, Very Good Bloopers."

Director: Miguel Arteta. Stars: Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Ed Oxenbould, Bella Thorne, Dylan Minnette. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 81 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $64.384 million, Disney. Available: 02/10.

two stars goback


photo for Action-packed family comedy adventure that introduces Baymax, a lovable, personal companion robot, who forms a special bond with robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada. When a devastating turn of events catapults them into the midst of a dangerous plot unfolding in the streets of San Fransokyo, Hiro turns to Baymax and his diverse group of friends -- adrenaline junkie Go Go Tomago, neatnik Wasabi, chemistry whiz Honey Lemon and fanboy Fred -- who transform into a band of unlikely heroes.

Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams. Stars: Voices of Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, T.J. Miller, Maya Rudolph , James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk, Daniel Henne. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: G, 102 min., Animated Family Adventure, Box office gross: $212.208 million, Disney. Extras: "Feast" theatrical short, "The Origin Story of Big Hero 6: Hiro's Journey"; "Big Animator 6: The Characters Behind the Characters"; Deleted Scenes. Blu-ray adds"Big Hero Secrets" (Easter Egg)": The movie is filled with Easter Eggs, and this Buzzfeed-type list piece offers a sampling of some of the hidden treasures in the film. Available: 02/24.

three stars goback


photo for Birdman "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 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. A tour-de-force performance by Keaton, fabulous directing (by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) and cinematography (by Academy Award-winner Emmanuel Lubezki) and an unforgettable score. 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.

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Stars: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Natalie Gold, Merritt Wever, Lindsay Duncan. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: R, 119 min., Drama, Box office gross: $33.237 million, Fox. Extras: "Birdman: All-Access," "Gallery: Chivo's On-Set Photos." Blu-ray adds "A Conversation With Michael Keaton and Alejandro G. Inarritu." Available: 02/17.

four stars goback


photo for Dracula Untold The origin story of one of legend's most captivating figures. The year is 1462 and Transylvania has enjoyed a prolonged period of peace under the just and fair rule of the battle-weary Vlad III, the prince of Wallachia (Luke Evans). But when Sultan Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper) demands 1,000 of Wallachia's boys -- including Vlad's own son -- become child soldiers in his army, Vlad must enter into a Faustian bargain to save his family and his people. He gains the strength of 100 men, the speed of a falling star, and the power to crush his enemies. In exchange, he's inflicted with an insatiable thirst for human blood that could force him into a life of darkness and destroy all that he holds dear. Extras: "Day in the Life - Luke Evans" personal moments with the film's star on set; "Dracula Retold" production featurette; "Slaying 1000" behind-the-scenes look at the making of Vlad's epic battle against an army of thousands; commentary with director Gary Shore and production designer Francois Audouy. Blu-ray adds alternate opening; deleted scenes; "The Land of Dracula" interactive map that explores Dracula's mysterious world, including Castle Dracula, Cozia Monastery, Broken Tooth Mountain and Borga Pass; "Luke Evens - Creating a Legend."

Director: Gary Shore. Stars: Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Charles Dance, Sarah Gadon, Art Parkinson. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 93 min., Horror, Box office gross: $23.514 million, Universal. Available: 02/03.

two stars goback


photo for Dumb and Dumber To Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels reprise their signature roles as Lloyd and Harry in the sequel to the smash hit that took the physical comedy and kicked it in the nuts. 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 and the responsibility neither should ever, ever be given.

Director: Peter and Bobby Farrelly. Stars: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Rob Riggle, Laurie Holden, Rachel Melvin, Steve Tom, Don Lake, Patricia French, Kathleen Turner, Bill Murray. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 109 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $85.874 million, Universal. Extras: "What's So Smart About Dumb and Dumber To." Blu-ray adds deleted/extended scenes, gag reel, "That’s Awesome! -- The Story of Dumb and Dumber To." Available: 02/17.

two stars goback


photo for 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. The unlikely pair soon realizes just how daunting the journey will be as the group traverses the vast Nebraska Territories, marked by stark beauty, psychological peril and constant danger.

Director: Tommy Lee Jones. Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter, Jo Harvey Allen, William Fichtner, John Lithgow, Tim Blake Nelson, James Spader, Meryl Streep. Extras: Two behind-the-scenes featurettes: "Story to Script" and "Shooting the Film"; "19th Century Life" featurette on the life of women in the 19th century. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: R, 123 min., Western, Box office gross: $2,299 million, Lionsgate. Available: 02/17.

two stars goback


photo for Horrible Bosses 2 Fed up with answering to higher-ups, Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) decide to become their own bosses by launching their own business. But a slick investor soon pulls the rug out from under them. Outplayed and desperate, and with no legal recourse, the three would-be entrepreneurs hatch a misguided plan to kidnap the investor's adult son and ransom him to regain control of their company.

Director: Sean Anders. Stars: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx, Chris Pine, Christoph Waltz. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: R, 108 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $xx.xx million, Warner. Blu-ray extras: Extended cut "Let The Sexual Healing Begin," "Who Invented the Shower Buddy," "Nick Kurt Dale Inc: Employee Testimonials," "It's the Shower Buddy – Infomercial," "High Speed Crash Course," "Off the Cuff: One Liners You Didn't See." Available: 02/24.

two stars goback


photo for 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.

Director: Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg. Stars: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Lizzy Caplan, Randall Park, Diana Bang, Timothy Simons, Reese Alexander. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: R, 112 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $5,532 million, Sony. Extras: "Naked and Afraid" Discovery Channel TV special featuring Rogen and Franco, commentary with Rogen and Goldberg. Blu-ray adds gag reel; deleted, extended and alternate scenes; seven featurettes: "Directors of This Movie," "Puppy Power," "Here Kitty Kitty," "Joking Around," "Spies Among Us," "Randall Park Audition Tape," "Dating a Dictator," "Getting Into Character"; Line-o-Ramas (short collections of alternate shots of jokes on set). Available: 02/17.

two stars goback


photo for When sadistic young thugs senselessly attack John Wick -- a brilliantly lethal ex-assassin -- they have no idea that they've just awakened the boogeyman. With New York City as his bullet-riddled playground, Wick embarks on a merciless rampage, hunting down his adversaries with the skill and ruthlessness that made him an underworld legend.

Director: Chad Stahelski. Stars: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Willem Dafoe. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: R, 101 min., Action Thriller, Box office gross: $42.960 million, Lionsgate. Extras: Six featurettes: "Don't F*#% With John Wick," "Calling in the Cavalry," "“Destiny of a Collective," "“Assassin's Code," "Red Circle" and "NYC Noir." Blu-ray adds commentary by filmmakers Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. Available: 02/03.

two stars goback


photo for Kill the Messenger A compelling political drama based on the true story of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb. A hard-charging investigative reporter (Jeremy Renner), stumbles upon the story of a lifetime when he uncovers a link between U.S. government intelligence agencies and Central American drug smugglers. Determined to prove the CIA used cocaine profits to fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, Webb endangers his career and family when he ignores the warnings of agency operatives in his relentless pursuit of the truth. Webb himself becomes the story and a target, as jealous rival reporters who missed the story move to discredit his work and reputation in an increasingly vicious smear campaign. His wife tries to stand by him even as, despite warnings fron drug kingpins and meanacing surveilance intended to deter his investigation, Webb keeps digging to prove a direct link beyween cocaine smugglers and the CIA, a conspiracy with explosiove implications.

Director: Michael Cuesta. Stars: Jeremy Renner, Robert Patrick, Jena Sims, Robert Pralgo, Hajji Golightly, Ted Huckabee, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Lucas Hedges, Rosemarie DeWitt. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: R, 112 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $2.450 million, Universal. Extras: Deleted scenes, "Kill the Messenger: The All-Star Cast," "Crack in America," "Filming in Georgia," commentary with director Michael Cuesta. Available: 02/10.

three stars goback



photo for Nightcrawler A pulse-pounding thriller set in the nocturnal underbelly of contemporary Los Angeles. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Lou Bloom, a driven young man desperate for work who discovers the high-speed world of L.A. crime reporting. Finding a group of freelance camera crews who film crashes, fires, murder and other mayhem, Lou muscles into the cut-throat, dangerous realm of nightcrawling — where each police siren wail equals a possible windfall and victims are converted into dollars. Aided by TV news producer Nina (Rene Russo), a veteran of the blood-sport that is local TV news, Lou blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story. Extras: "If It Bleeds, It Leads: Making Nightcrawler," commentary with writer-director Dan Gilroy, producer Tony Gilroy and editor John Gilroy.

Director: Dan Gilroy. Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Bill Paxton, Rene Russo, Ann Cusack, Kevin Rahm, Kathleen York, Riz Ahmed, Viviana Chavez, Anne McDaniels. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: R, 117 min., Drama, Box office gross: $30.379 million, Universal. Available: 02/10.

three stars goback


photo for Rosewater Jon Stewart ("The Daily Show") makes his screenwriting and directorial debut in this tale of hope and survival, based on a true story. A Tehran-born journalist based in London, Maziar Bahari (Gael García Bernal) returns to Iran where he covers the 2009 presidential election and its ensuing riots. Falsely accused of espionage, Bahari is arrested and turned over to "Rosewater" (Kim Bodnia), a brutal interrogator who subjects the innocent reporter to months of beatings and torture to force him to confess he's a spy. Based on Bahari's bestselling memoir "Then They Came for Me, Rosewater."

Director: Jon Stewart. Stars: Gael García Bernal, Kim Bodnia, Dimitri Leonidas, Haluk Bilginer. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: R, 103 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $3.128 million, Universal. Extras: "Iran's Controversial Election," "The Story of Maziar Bahari," "Real Spies Have TV Shows," "What Happens in New Jersey ...," "A Director's Perspective." Available: 02/10 .

two stars goback


photo for St. Vincent 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 (Bill Murray), a retired curmudgeon with a penchant for alcohol and gambling. An odd friendship soon blossoms between the improbable pair. Together with a pregnant Russian stripper named Daka (Naomi Watts), 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.

Director: Theodore Melfi. Stars: Bill Murray, Jaeden Lieberher, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O'Dowd, Terrence Howard. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 102 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $43.737 million, The Weinstein Company. Extras: TBA. Available: 02/17.

three stars goback


photo for The Theory of Everything 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 paralysed 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.

Director: James Marsh. Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, David Thewlis. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 123 min., BioDrama, Box office gross: $27.510 million, Universal. Extras: Deleted scenes, "Becoming the Hawkings," commentary with director James Marsh. Available: 02/17.

three stars goback


photo for Whiplash Andrew Neyman is an ambitious young jazz drummer, single-minded in his pursuit to rise to the top of his elite East Coast music conservatory. Plagued by the failed writing career of his father, Andrew hungers day and night to become one of the greats. Terence Fletcher, an instructor equally known for his teaching talents as for his terrifying methods, leads the top jazz ensemble in the school. Fletcher discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into his band, forever changing the young man's life. Andrew's passion to achieve perfection quickly spirals into obsession, as his ruthless teacher continues to push him to the brink of both his ability -- and his sanity.

Director: Damien Chazelle. Stars: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser, Jayson Blair. 2014, CC, MPAA rating: R, 107 min., Drama, Box office gross: $6.671 million, Sony. Extras: Commentary with writer-director Damien Chazelle and J.K. Simmons, "An Evening at the Toronto International Film Festival With Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons and Damien Chazelle." Blu-ray adds "Timekeepers," in which famous drummers discuss their craft and passion for drumming, "Whiplash" original short film with optional commentary, deleted scene. Available: 02/24.

three stars goback

All DVDs and Blu-rays are screened on a reference system consisting of an Oppo BDP-83 Universal Blu-ray Player, a Rotel RSX-972 Surround Sound Receiver, and Phase Technology 1.1 (front), 33.1 (center), and 50 (rear) speakers and Power 10 subwoofer.


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February 1, 2014