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.

Which "robots in disguise" will show up for Michael Bay’s live-action "Transformers" next year? Two of the pic’s screenwriters showed up online this morning to reveal just which Autobots and Decepticons we can look forward to seeing duke it out on the big screen.

Writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (who previously teamed to write "The Island," "Mission: Impossible III" and more) showed up on Yahoo to answer fan questions about the beloved 80s cartoon-turned-blockbuster, which will hit theaters on July 4, 2007.

Some of the characters they cited to appear in the movie:

Autobots:

  • Optimus Prime
  • Bumblebee — scout
  • Jazz
  • Ratchet — a medical officer; in the cartoon, he was an ambulance; in the movie, he’ll be some kind of emergency vehicle
  • Ironhide — a tough soldier; classic cowboy; Optimus’ oldest friend

Autobot Human:

  • Spike

Decepticons:

  • Megatron
  • Starscream — obeys Megatron, but wants to overthrow him
  • Brawl — an extremely pissed off Decepticon
  • Bonecrusher — closest thing to a constructicon; hates all other Decepticons except Megatron
  • Barricade — hunter of the group, scouting for Autobots; transforms to cop car as an ironic symbol of authority
  • Scorponok
  • Frenzy — a smaller form, able to infiltrate around you and not be seen — a "stealth spy"; can hide under desks
  • Blackout — takes out the ability to fight back; hits electronics (EMP); is the biggest vehicle, transports other Decepticons

Fear not, if these characters (or the entire "Transformers" world) are not familiar to you; Orci and Kurtzman promise that the story will be accessible to the uninitiated while staying loyal to the legions of fans. They also say the story will be told through the eyes of its human characters, who are witnessing the intergalactic Autobot-Decepticon war come abruptly to Earth.

For more of the Q&A, check out the webcast here.

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