This week on home video, we’ve got a 1980s franchise reboot, a dystopian YA novel adaptation, Woody Allen’s latest film, and a couple of dramedies about dysfunctional families. Then we’ve got some notable TV releases — including the complete series of a popular anime — and some smaller films. Read on for details:



Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

21%

After some controversy surrounding whether or not the turtles in the Michael Bay-produced reboot would, in fact, be mutants, Bay himself came forward and told fans not to worry. As it turns out, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had enough other problems for critics to point out. The story remains essentially the same: four turtles and a lab rat are transformed by science into walking, talking, butt-kicking humanoids, and an evil neo-samurai known as the Shredder threatens their fair city with a nefarious plot. The turtles still love pizza, and plucky reporter April O’Neil becomes an unexpected ally in their righteous battle. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Battle: Los Angeles), the film featured plenty of callbacks to the beloved 1980s franchise (“Cowabunga!”) but little in the way of wit, compelling storytelling, or entertainment value in general, resulting in a skimpy 22 percent Tomatometer. The film comes in a regular Blu-ray/DVD package as well as a 3D release and features a handful of extras like a look at the character design and a look at the real-life evolution of turtles.



The Maze Runner

65%

The latest release in the increasingly popular genre of dystopian young adult novel adaptations is also one of the better-reviewed of the bunch. Starring a cast of relatively unknown young actors, the film centers on a young man named Thomas, who wakes up with no memory in a giant maze alongside others like him. He quickly discovers he and his fellow runners are trapped, forced to cobble together some semblance of a society as they attempt to figure out why they were brought to the labyrinth and how to escape it. Thanks to its unique premise, its embrace of bleak themes, and strong performances from its stars, The Maze Runner garnered a 63 percent Tomatometer score, though some critics wished for a more satisfactory third act. Special features include a long, multi-part behind-the-scenes doc, deleted scenes, gag reel, and more.



This Is Where I Leave You

44%

A dysfunctional family comedy wherein the dysfunctional family in question consists of veterans like Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, and Jane Fonda, as well as rising stars like Adam Driver and Corey Stoll, sounds like a pretty good idea on paper. And for what it’s worth, critics say This Is Where I Leave You has its moments, even if it ultimately underwhelms. Based on the book of the same name by Jonathan Tropper, the film centers around the Altman family, who come together for a week when their father passes away. They bicker, air dirty laundry, rehash past grievances, and attempt to make sense of their own lives, with mixed results. Critics acknowledged the amount of talent on display, which both helped to elevate the somewhat banal material and raised expectations for the end product — it unfortunately fell a bit short on the latter, resulting in a 42 percent Tomatometer score. The Blu-ray comes with a few extras on the making of the film and a deleted scene.



Magic in the Moonlight

51%

Uber-prolific director Woody Allen has had a rollercoaster career over the past several years, consisting of critical hits (Match Point, Midnight in Paris) and misses (Scoop, To Rome with Love). So it might have been wishful thinking to hope that his follow-up to last year’s widely acclaimed Blue Jasmine would also be a winner. Magic in the Moonlight follows a popular stage magician (Colin Firth) who travels to the French Riviera in order to debunk a young spiritualist (Emma Stone) claiming to be clairvoyant and who may or may not be taking advantage of a grieving widow. Critics were split at 51 percent on the Tomatometer; while some lauded the cinematography and period detail for creating a specific mood, others felt the laughs were few and the introspective themes treated with too light a touch.



The Skeleton Twins

86%

It’s not uncommon for comedic actors to diversify and pursue weightier roles as their careers progress — think Robin Williams, Bill Murray, and Ben Stiller, for example — and the end result is often unpredictable. With The Skeleton Twins, however, SNL alums Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig have landed on impressively solid ground. The pair star as estranged twins Milo and Maggie, who reunite under tragic circumstances, prompting Milo to move back home to New York and live with Maggie and her husband (Luke Wilson) for a while. Slowly, the siblings begin to repair their relationship and, with each other’s help, attempt to rebuild their own lives. Critics agreed that Hader and Wiig were in top form, and their strong performances and onscreen chemistry helped lend authenticity to the film’s more affecting moments, leading to a Certified Fresh 86 percent. Bonus features include a commentary track with director Craig Johnson, Wiig, and Hader, as well as outtakes, deleted scenes, and a 15-minute making-of doc.

Also available this week:

  • Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever (30 percent), starring the internet’s favorite cat in a holiday tale about a kitty who gets adopted by a young girl and helps avert a couple of crises.
  • At the Devil’s Door (24 percent), a horror thriller about a real estate agent who puts her sister in danger when she attempts to sell a house with a dark history.
  • One choice from the Criterion Collection: Sydney Pollack’s acclaimed Certified Fresh comedy Tootsie (88 percent), starring Dustin Hoffman as a notoriously difficult actor who resorts to dressing as a woman in order to find work.
  • Season two of Certified Fresh period drama The Americans (97 percent), starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as a pair of Russian spies living undercover in 1980s America.
  • The Certified Fresh first season of Extant (83 percent), starring Halle Berry in a sci-fi drama about an astronaut who returns home with a secret after a year in space.
  • Season one of BBC America’s sci-fi series Intruders (39 percent), about a supernatural secret society whose members inhabit the bodies of others to achieve immortality.
  • And lastly, the complete series of the groundbreaking anime (it was the first to be broadcast on Adult Swim in the US, ushering in a wave of Japanese animation) Cowboy Bebop is available on DVD and Blu-ray.



The latest young-adult-novel-to-film took control of the box office as The Maze Runner more than doubled its nearest competitor, while films with much more star power opened quietly in second and third.

Generating the sixth biggest September opening in history, Fox’s The Maze Runner debuted with a very strong $32.5M from 3,604 theaters for a per screen average of $9,018, according to estimates. Turning young adult novels into films has been a hit-or-miss kind of thing over the last few years. For every Hunger Games or Harry Potter there has been a Beautiful Creatures or Vampire Academy. While The Maze Runner won’t reach the heights of the former, its opening weekend has already beaten out the entire runs of the latter. There are two sequels to the book and one prequel in the works so we may have gotten another young adult franchise off the ground.

Second place belonged to Liam Neeson and A Walk Among the Tombstones. Opening in 2,712 theaters, the film only managed to reach an estimated $13.1M, for a per screen average of $4,840. Reviews for the film were better than the two Taken films and Neeson’s last thrill ride, Non-Stop, but the Cinemascore for his latest revenge flick was a poor B-, meaning it simply did not connect with audiences. That could help explain why the opening was so much lower than the three films it is destined to be compared against, but one would have imagined from the trailers alone people would have gone out opening weekend as this is the type of role they’ve come to enjoy from Neeson. Time will tell if the Neeson-as-action-star genre has faded when Taken 3 opens in January.

The year of generic movie names continued with This is Where I Leave You opening in third place with an estimated $11.8M from 2,868 screens for an average of $4,135. Starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Rose Byrne (who, as those of you who read my reviews know, I believe should be in every movie) and Adam Driver, the comedy from Warner Bros. had a B+ Cinemascore, which is good, but not great. Even with the starpower, did the movie get lost in the shuffle because it was poorly named? Look at the name of some of the films from this summer and see if you can tell the difference between them: Stay, Begin Again, Wish I Was Here, If I Stay, And So It Goes, What If, and Are You Here. By the time This Is Where I Leave You hit theaters this weekend, it kind of felt like I had already seen the film because it sounded like half a dozen other ones. Middle-of-the-road reviews certainly didn’t help, but if you don’t make your movie stand out in the marketplace these days, you’ll get buried beneath the noise.

Last week’s top film No Good Deed fell 58% from its strong opening to an estimated $10.2M, bringing its total up to $40M. Look for it to end its run in the $60M range. Following closely behind was Dolphin Tale 2 which had a smaller drop of only 43%, taking in an estimated $9M this weekend, bringing its cume to $27M with a final total likely in the $45M range.

The current number one film of the year, Guardians of the Galaxy ended up in sixth place this weekend with the smallest drop in the top 10, falling 36% to an estimated $5.2M, bringing its total to an out-of-this-world $313M. With The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 and the finale of The Hobbit trilogy still looming, it’s unlikely Guardians of the Galaxy will remain the top film of 2014, but it has been an incredible debut ride for the latest heroes in the Marvel universe.

Holdovers took the final four spots in the top 10 this weekend. The comedy hit Let’s Be Cops took in an estimated $2.675 this weekend bringing its total up to an impressive $77M. The heroes in a half shell, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was very close behind with $2.65M, according to estimates (look for a possible change in order when the final numbers come in on Monday), bringing its total to $185M. Fox Searchlight’s The Drop tumbled 50% in its second outing to an estimated $2M, bringing its total to $7.7M with not much left to go. And rounding out the top 10 was If I Stay which took in an additional $1.8M, according to estimates, for a $47.6M total so far.

Debuting poorly outside the top 10 was Kevin Smith’s horror-comedy Tusk which managed to generate almost no interest, taking in an estimated $886,000 from 602 screens for a per screen average of only $1,472.

The top 10 grossed an estimated $91M this weekend, which is up 30% from 2013 when Prisoners debuted at number one with $20.8M; and up 26% from 2012 when End of Watch led the charts with $13M.

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RT Podcast: Ep. 056 – Writer Jonathan Tropper discusses This Is Where I Leave You
Grae sits down with author/screenwriter Jonathan Tropper about his film in theaters this week, This is Where I Leave You, starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Connie Britton Adam Driver, and about a million other actors. Included in this discussion of the film is what Jonathan’s commute to work is really like, what he will do on opening weekend of the film, and exactly how many people want to talk about Jane Fonda’s breasts.

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RT Podcast: Ep. 055 – New movies & TV, plus Liam Neeson & Kevin Smith interviews
This week’s show is jam-packed with reviews and interviews! First up is Tim, with critics’ reactions to The Maze Runner, This Is Where I Leave You, A Walk Among the Tombstones, and Tusk. Ryan discusses two new home video releases, Godzilla and The Fault in Our Stars. Then Sarah talks about new TV shows, including Gotham, Scorpion, Forever, NCIS: New Orleans, and Black-ish. Finally, Grae shares her interview with Liam Neeson, Kevin Smith, Justin Long, and Dan Stevens.

This week at the movies, we’ve got a mysterious labyrinth (The Maze Runner, starring Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario), a tense family reunion (This is Where I Leave You, starring Jason Bateman and Tina Fey), a grizzled private investigator (A Walk Among the Tombstones, starring Liam Neeson and Dan Stevens), and a walrus-obsessed killer (Tusk, starring Justin Long and Michael Parks). What do the critics have to say?



The Maze Runner

65%

Another week, another dystopian young adult novel adaptation. Fortunately, critics say The Maze Runner is better than most, thanks to strong performances and a creepy, mysterious atmosphere. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up with no memory of his past, and finds himself within the confines of the Glade, a vast maze populated by other teenagers. Using clues within the Glade, he begins to piece together the enigma of his existence — and how to escape. The pundits say The Maze Runner‘s setup is more satisfying than its payoff, but overall, it’s smart, well-acted, and visually striking.



This Is Where I Leave You

44%

This is Where I Leave You is a dramedy about a dysfunctional family starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, and many more recognizable faces. Sounds like a winner, right? Well, critics say that despite the best efforts of the cast, the movie only generates occasional laughs. When the Altman family patriarch dies, his wife and children gather to mourn; fairly quickly, deeply-held insecurities, resentments, and family secrets bubble to the surface. The pundits say that while it’s fun to see this many good actors together onscreen, This is Where I Leave You plays everything a bit too safe, with rote characterizations and clichéd conflicts that don’t cut very deep. (Watch our video interview with the cast and crew here.)



A Walk Among the Tombstones

68%

Liam Neeson’s recent transformation into a world-weary vengeance seeker has yielded uneven — though occasionally startling — dividends. Critics say his latest, A Walk Among the Tombstones, falls right in the middle — it’s an old-fashioned, meat-and-potatoes noir with better-than-average characters to offset its shopworn plot. Neeson stars as a private investigator who’s tasked with finding those responsible for the murder of a drug trafficker’s wife. He soon learns that the killers are likely to strike again, and vows to hunt them down and stop them before they do. The pundits say that A Walk Among the Tombstones is a relatively routine detective thriller, but it’s skillfully made and benefits from the gravitas Neeson brings to the proceedings. (Check out Neeson’s best-reviewed movies here, and be sure to watch our video interview here.)



Tusk

45%

Best known for his amiable, observational comedies, Kevin Smith has recently taken a detour into horror with Red State (2011) and now Tusk. And while critics say his latest is inventive and gleefully perverse, its gruesome set pieces coexist uneasily with its macabre sense of humor. Justin Long stars as Wallace, the host of a podcast that spotlights the bizarre and grotesque. He travels to Canada to interview a mysterious loner, who eventually reveals that he intends to turn Wallace into a walrus. The pundits say Tusk certainly doesn’t lack for ambition, but it too often feels strange for its own sake.

Also opening this week in limited release:

Finally, props to Andrew LaPlant for coming the closest to guessing No Good Deed‘s 11 percent Tomatometer.

This is Where I Leave You features a beautiful, meaningful moment that has to do with a child’s potty. So Grae Drake embarks on a journey to talk about it with director Shawn Levy and actors Corey Stoll, Adam Driver, Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, and Jane Fonda.

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