This week on home video, we’ve got an animated sequel, a puzzling sci-fi tale, and the second season of a much buzzed-about BBC America TV series. Beyond that, we’ve got a handful of notable smaller movies, as well as two excellent choices from the Criterion Collection. Read on for details:

Rio 2


Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway reprise their voice roles as Blu and Jewel, the pair of blue macaws who found love in Fox’s 2011 animated film Rio, in this sequel, which follows them as they pursue the trail of another recently spotted macaw. Along the way, Blu, Jewel, and their three kids clash with an illegal logging operation in the Amazon, reunite with Jewel’s family, and run into some trouble in the form of an old nemesis. Unfortunately, critics weren’t as smitten by the colorful couple’s antics this time around, saying Rio 2 felt simply like a bigger, busier retread of its predecessor and rewarding its efforts with a 46 percent on the Tomatometer. Nevertheless, it may serve as a colorful distraction for your little ones, especially considering the special features include an extensive playlist of both sing-along and dance-along songs, among other things.

Under the Skin


Those of you looking to hunker down with a copy of Under the Skin this week purely because “it’s the movie where Scarlett Johansson gets naked” might end up with more than you bargained for (don’t worry; we know that’s not really why you’re watching it). Jonathan Glazer’s (Sexy Beast) third film, an adaptation of Michel Faber’s eponymous sci-fi novel, is the stylized account of an alien who takes the form of a woman (Johansson) to seduce men and, ultimately, absorb their innards. Over time, the alien’s predatory instincts give way to curious observation, but to what end? Critics mostly agreed that Under the Skin‘s visual themes and narrative ambiguity might not be accessible to all viewers, but they also praised Johansson’s performance and the film’s haunting, heady ideas, making the film Certified Fresh at 86 percent. Available on DVD and Blu-ray this week, special features include a little over 42 minutes’ worth of featurettes on topics ranging from the casting and music to the production design and visual effects.

Orphan Black – Season Two

BBC America’s hit sci-fi series has been a coming out party for its star, Tatiana Maslany, who acts opposite herself in multiple roles and has earned a Golden Globe nomination for her efforts (no Emmy nom, though, much to the dismay of fans). After a first season that slowly drew an increasingly larger audience by word of mouth, Orphan Black returned for its second season back in April, expanding its narrative to include more characters, more twists, and more evidence why Maslany deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the show’s Certified Fresh 97 percent Tomatometer. For those of you looking for some extra clone goodness, the season two Blu-ray that hits shelves this week includes a number of making-of featurettes, including an extended version of the four-clone scene (dance party, woohoo!) and clone character profiles.

Also available this week:

  • Wrinkles (96 percent), an animated film about life in a retirement home, with voice work from Martin Sheen and Matthew Modine.
  • Israeli import Bethlehem (77 percent), a Certified Fresh drama exploring the complex relationship between an Israeli Secret Service agent and his Palestinian informant.
  • Road to Paloma (70 percent), a road movie about a Native American who flees across the country after he avenges his mother’s murder, starring, written by, and directed by Jason Momoa.
  • The Face of Love (42 percent), starring Ed Harris and Annette Bening in a dramedy about a widow who meets and falls in love with a man who looks exactly like her deceased husband.
  • Season three of Hell on Wheels, starring Anson Mount in a Western drama about a former Confederate soldier who becomes a foreman in the construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad.
  • And of course, two more choices from the Criterion Collection: David Cronenberg’s breakout 1981 thriller Scanners (79 percent) is available in a first-time Criterion edition, and Robert Bresson’s 1959 classic Pickpocket (97 percent) is available in a new DVD edition and a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack.
This week at the movies, we’ve got a dog and his boy (Mr. Peabody & Sherman, with voice performances by Ty Burrell and Stephen Colbert) and some raging Spartans (300: Rise of an Empire, starring Sullivan Stapleton and Eva Green). What do the critics have to say?

Mr. Peabody & Sherman


It’s never easy to stretch a series of shorts to feature-film length, especially when the source material is largely unfamiliar to its intended audience. Fortunately, critics say Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a mostly successful big screen adaptation, with enough cleverness and goofy action to please kids and their parents. Canine genius Mr. Peabody (voiced by Ty Burrell) and his adopted charge Sherman (Max Charles) use the WABAC machine to travel back in time and ensure that history’s greatest moments happen as they should. However, when Sherman takes the machine for a joyride to impress a classmate, it’s up to his doggie guardian to rescue him. The critics say Mr. Peabody & Sherman sometimes strains to maintain the inspired lunacy of the original cartoons, but most of the time, it’s bright, funny, exciting, and heartfelt. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we run down some memorable time travel movies, as well as our interviews with the cast.)

300: Rise of an Empire


If you’re in the mood stylized bloodshed, you’re in luck: 300: Rise of an Empire is chock full of beheadings, hacked-off limbs, and gallons of blood. But critics say beyond its admittedly impressive visuals, the film is short on the heroic bombast of its predecessor. This time out, it’s a band of plucky seafaring Greeks, lead by Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) against the mighty Persian navy, headed by Artemisia (Eva Green); as we eventually learn through a series of flashbacks, this fight is partially driven by personal animosity. The pundits say Green is fantastic as a bellicose she-devil, but little resonates in 300: Rise of an Empire beyond the lovingly rendered killings and decapitations. (Check out this week’s 24 Frames for a gallery of big stars in togas.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Miele, a drama about a woman who secretly helps people with terminal illnesses to die on their own terms, is at 100 percent.
  • Particle Fever, a documentary about the physicists working to find the Higgs boson particle, is at 92 percent.
  • In Fear, a thriller about a couple that gets lost en route to a would-be romantic getaway, is at 90 percent.
  • Journey To The West, Stephen Chow‘s adaptation of the classic Chinese novel about a Buddhist monk’s epic excursion from China to India, is at 90 percent.
  • Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel, starring Ralph Fiennes and Saoirse Ronan in a period comedy about the adventures of a concierge and the oddball inhabitants of an ornate hotel, is Certified Fresh at 86 percent.
  • Grand Piano, starring Elijah Wood and John Cusack in a thriller about a concert pianist who must deliver a flawless performance to stave off a sniper, is at 82 percent.
  • Bethlehem, a drama about the tense relationship between an Israeli Secret Service officer and a Palestinian informant, is at 65 percent.
  • The Face of Love, starring Annette Bening and Ed Harris in a drama about a widow who meets a man who’s the spitting image of her dead husband, is at 53 percent.
  • Haunt, a horror film about a family that moves into an old house and stirs a malevolent curse, is at 20 percent.

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