This week on home video, we’ve got a surprise animated hit from the typically dreary movie month of February, Wes Anderson’s latest winner, and the second season of Netflix’s Emmy-winning political drama. Plus, we’ve got some notable smaller releases, including an Oscar-nominated animation, a well-received David Gordon Green drama starring Nic Cage, and a handful of other indie films. Read on for details:



The LEGO Movie

96%

The LEGO Movie could have easily turned into a 100-minute toy commercial, but in the capable hands of co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (21 Jump Street), it became a loving tribute to the power of imagination. Chris Pratt voices Emmet, an everyman LEGO figure who stumbles into the role of LEGO savior when a mystical object fuses itself to his back. With the help of an eclectic team of “builders,” Emmett attempts to foil the nefarious plans of the evil President Business (Will Ferrell). Critics were positively charmed by The LEGO Movie, rewarding it with a Certified Fresh 96% on the Tomatometer thanks to imaginative animation, a hilarious script, and a surprisingly thoughtful conclusion. The Blu-ray includes a funny and informative commentary track featuring the directors, Pratt, Will Arnett, Charlie Day, and Alison Brie; a couple of making-of featurettes; and lots of short video tidbits, including an “Everything Is Awesome” sing-along. If you opt for the “Everything Is Awesome” Edition, you’ll also get the 3D version of the film, a 3D cast of Emmet’s face, a LEGO figurine of Vitruvius, and an exclusive “Meet the LEGO Builders” featurette.



The Grand Budapest Hotel

92%

A story within a story within a story, The Grand Budapest Hotel recounts the tale of Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), the charismatic concierge of a luxurious mountain hotel who frequently offers his “services” to wealthy aging women. When one of them (Tilda Swinton) dies and leaves Gustave a precious painting in her will, her family becomes irate and attempts — by any means necessary — to retrieve the painting. Critics declared Grand Budapest — Certified Fresh at 92% — another triumph for Wes Anderson, replete with his trademark visual flourishes, wry wit, and a sprawling cast full of veterans like Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, and many more. The Blu-ray includes three featurettes, three short vignettes to accompany the film, and a 4-minute short following Bill Murray as he tours the various film shoot locations.



Ernest & Célestine

98%

One of this year’s ill-fated nominees for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, Ernest & Célestine is a French-Belgian animated film that takes place in a world populated by anthropomorphized bears (who live above ground) and mice (who live below). All young mice are taught that they are a choice snack for bears, but when a young orphan named Célestine is separated from her peers and encounters a hungry bear named Ernest, the two form an unlikely bond. Though the original film is voiced in French, American audiences were treated to a cast that included Paul Giamatti, Lauren Bacall, William H. Macy, and, in the lead roles, Forest Whitaker (Ernest) and Mackenzie Foy (Célestine). Critics were positively charmed by Ernest & Célestine, calling its story sweet and its old-fashioned visual aesthetic delightful. The main bonus features are a 52-minute long making-of doc and a feature-length animatic (essentially a storyboard recreation of the film).



House of Cards – Season Two

Netflix had itself a bona fide hit with House of Cards, whose first season ended with Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood accepting the post of Vice President while journalists Zoe, Lucas, and Janine (Kate Mara, Sebastian Arcelus, and Constance Zimmer) probed deeper into his shady activities. Season two finds Frank eager to remove himself even further from any possible scandal, as he deftly continues to manipulate his way up the chain of power. Critics rated this most recent season Certified Fresh at 85% on the Tomatometer, noting that the series continued to deliver the kinds of powerful performances, strong writing, and crisp cinematography typical of contemporary premium cable drama. Extras on the season boxset include a glimpse of the show’s table reads and featurettes covering the differences between the series and the original 1990s British miniseries that inspired it, Frank’s habit of breaking the fourth wall, and more.

Also available this week:

  • David Gordon Green’s Joe (83%), starring Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in a Certified Fresh drama about an ex-con who befriends a teen and becomes his protector.
  • The Machine (78%), a sci-fi thriller about two programmers who create a self-aware AI, only to have it commandeered by the government.
  • Walk of Shame (13%), starring Elizabeth Banks and James Marsden in a comedy about a news reporter who gets stranded in the wrong part of town after a drunken one-night stand.
  • Authors Anonymous (7%), starring Kaley Cuoco and Chris Klein in a comedy about a support group for unpublished authors whose members are rankled when one of them becomes an overnight success.
  • And lastly, a whopping three releases from the Criterion Collection: Georges Franju’s 1963 crime thriller Judex (100%) is available for the first time in a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack, and Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (94%) and Peter Davis’s documentary Hearts and Minds both get new DVD/Blu-ray re-releases. Also, an additional note for all of your Criterion aficionados out there: As per a recent announcement, The Criterion Collection will resume separate DVD and Blu-ray packages, beginning with their September releases later this year.

Since we know you’re all dying for the latest Tom Cruise/celebrity baby news, here it is: Tom and Katie welcomed baby girl Suri Tuesday afternoon…but wait, there’s more!

Yes, the huge bun in Katie Holmes‘ disturbingly protruding belly has finally been born, after what seems like eons of Tom Cruise’s endless string of bad PR moments since he jumped his first couch last year. What better remedy for a year’s worth of overzealous moments in the media eye than the culmination of Cruise and Holmes’ surprise romance?

No word yet on how Katie’s silent birth went, but baby girl Suri is doing well, according to publicists.

In an amusing twist of fate, baby TomKitten Suri was not the only mini celeb born yesterday. Joining her in the future ranks of young Hollywood was none other than the new daughter of Daddy Cruise’s postpartum drug-endorsing archenemy: Brooke Shields. Beating Katie to the birthing punch, Shields delivered her little bundle of joy Tuesday morning, named her (Grier Henchy, FYI), reported it to the media, and thus the gauntlet was thrown. Score: Brooke Shields 2, Tom Cruise 0.

Variety brings news of a cinematic pairing that should thrill most of the hardcore movie geeks out there. How about Peter Weir directing Johnny Depp? Yup, thought that’d get your attention.

"Peter Weir will direct "Shantaram," the Warner Bros. adaptation of the Gregory David Roberts novel that will star Johnny Depp.

Weir will develop the script with Eric Roth. WB hopes to begin production late next year.

Pic is being produced by Initial Entertainment Group’s Graham King along with Depp’s Infinitum Nihil banner and Plan B’s Brad Pitt.

When negotiations are complete, Weir — who last directed Russell Crowe in "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" — will take on a tale with the political and wartime tensions reminiscent of his early efforts like "The Year of Living Dangerously" and "Gallipoli."

Protag is an Australian heroin addict who escapes a maximum-security prison and reinvents himself in India as a doctor in the slums of Bombay. His attempt to find medicine for his destitute patients leads him into counterfeiting, gunrunning and smuggling."

One of moviedom’s most consistent directors, Peter Weir also brought you "Picnic at Hanging Rock," "Witness," "The Mosquito Coast," "Dead Poets Society," "Green Card," "Fearless," and "The Truman Show." Mr. Roth’s previous screenplays include "Forrest Gump," "The Insider," and "Ali." And Johnny Depp? Well, if I have to list Johnny Depp’s credits for you, then you’re clearly at the wrong website. (Note: He was in some really great movies before "Pirates"!)

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