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.

Five-Favorite-Films-with-Chris-Klein

Chris Klein is probably best known as Chris “Oz” Ostreicher, one of four high school pals who famously sought to lose their virginity in 1999’s American Pie and remained friends throughout the franchise’s subsequent installments, but he’s amassed quite an eclectic filmography. Currently, Klein stars alongside Kaley Cuoco in Authors Anonymous, a comedy about a group of struggling writers learning to cope with the sudden success of one of its members. We got the chance to speak with Klein about his Five Favorite Films, which proved to be somewhat revealing about his own personality. Read on for his selections:


Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981; 95% Tomatometer)



I’m a guy. I love guy films. I love adventure films. Adventure films are why I wanted to be in show business; I wanted to go on those adventures. I think my very favorite movie of all time is Raiders of the Lost Ark.

RT: We were just talking about this movie, because Mayim Bialik’s character on The Big Bang Theory recently made the claim that Raiders would be the exact same movie without Indiana Jones in it, which sparked a fifteen-minute debate among all of us yesterday.

And where did you guys land?


RT: Unfortunately, she’s kind of right, because when you think about every plot point in the film, Indiana Jones is always playing catch-up. There’s not anything that he does that really spurs events into motion.

Oh, that’s hilarious. But isn’t that what makes Indiana Jones so terrific? He’s a human being. In today’s movies, we don’t get heroes without superpowers. We don’t get heroes who are playing catch-up and trying to make things happen with some courage, grit, a whip, and a hat. He’s a history teacher, for God’s sake. He’s an archaeologist. And he’s one of the greatest American heroes. I love that he doesn’t have any superpowers. That’s why he’s one of my favorite all-time cinematic characters, whether he’s necessary to the plot or not. Being a very little kid, watching Raiders of the Lost Ark, going on that journey with Indiana Jones, it just spurred the imagination.

Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962; 99% Tomatometer)



Next on my list is Lawrence of Arabia. 1962, Peter O’Toole, directed by David Lean. When you watch this movie digitally remastered… I would love, at some point, to see it in a theater, to see it on film, the way it was meant to be seen. I’ve never done that with Lawrence of Arabia, and I would love to be able to do that. But when you watch that on a flatscreen — get a big enough one — with surround sound, the epicness of this movie… I mean, there’s an intermission for God’s sake. I’m not sure there’s a greater adventure than Lawrence of Arabia. And Peter O’Toole, he’s another guy who doesn’t have any superpowers. He’s a human being. He’s working off the human condition, what it is to be a man, and what he believes in, and what he’s trying to do out there in the middle of the desert. It’s epic. It’s epic in scope.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000; 97% Tomatometer)



And then, one that I can’t get away from is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. First of all, in America, we weren’t all that familiar with Chow Yun-Fat, and we were a little bit more familiar with Michelle Yeoh, but we weren’t all that familiar with Ziyi Zhang, who’s phenomenal in everything that she does. But we’d never seen… I was new to the business — I’d been in show business since 1997, so I was three years in show business, and a lover of movies my whole life. And I remember sitting in the theater going, “This is a turning point. I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire life.” And then it’s been copied now, over and over and over and over. And I would kind of argue that things like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I’d have to call that an original take on that genre. The story is beautiful, and visually, what Ang Lee was able to do… The fact that he can do that and make beautiful films like Brokeback Mountain, and then come back and do movies like Life of Pi, which is another visually stunning film. For me, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon might be on the list to stay. You and I could sit down and watch that movie right now and still go, “God is that cool! That is just cool.”

The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2008; 97% Tomatometer)



I’m taking you in a slightly different direction now, and I’m going to throw down Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker. To me, as an actor, and as a lover and proponent of independent film, what Kathryn Bigelow and Jeremy Renner were able to do on a budget… The storytelling in this movie is sublime. I would have a hard time putting any performance by a male actor above the beautifully nuanced, incredibly layered performance that Jeremy Renner gives in this movie. Yes, he was nominated; I still don’t think he gets enough credit for this performance. Maybe it’s my place in life, maybe it’s the age I was when I saw the film, maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been frustrated with the lack of war films coming out at a time when America was at war and these stories needed to be told. I still feel like they need to be told and aren’t necessarily being told the right way. The Hurt Locker, to me, is as perfect a film as you can make. And Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty — those three characters, gosh… That movie blows me away.

The Hustler (Robert Rossen, 1961; 98% Tomatometer)



Really for me, it’s Paul Newman in The Hustler. When I watched The Hustler, and it’s Jackie Gleason… You know, we know Jackie Gleason from The Honeymooners, but you have to know Jackie Gleason from The Hustler. When I watched that movie as an actor and as a lover of acting, again, those performances from those two men are standalone performances.

My father is a big reason why, because I fell in love with acting very early on, and my dad introduced me to the actors that he grew up watching, and I had the opportunity, watching these films, to really get a master class in being an actor. Listen, I just turned 35 in March, and my goal is to become an actor capable of telling the type of stories that Paul Newman got to tell, and that Redford got to tell, and that Cary Grant and those guys got to tell. You know, you talk about the comedy and the mystery and the intrigue and the drama; these guys honed in on it all. And when I watched The Hustler, out of the long list of amazing performances that Paul Newman gives, to me, that movie just stands alone.



RT: The commonality that I see in these particular films is that, as you were saying in the beginning, these are guys without superpowers. These are normal guys who were very heroic in their everyday lives, and they did extraordinary things just because they were extraordinary. I would wager that says something about you and how you try to live. Do you think that’s the case?

Chris Klein: You know, I suppose so. I think that that’s a pretty good assessment. There’s a reason that we gravitate toward movies. They make us feel something. And all of these men in these films are definitely men that I look up to, men that inspire me to try to do amazing things with my ordinary powers. You know, I don’t come to the table with any superpowers. And yeah, ordinary men doing extraordinary things in the face of extraordinary circumstances — those are the stories that I love. And really, what that says about me — I hope it’s what you said. I hope that I strive to be a good person like that. I’m sure that there are plenty of people in my life that would call me the anti-hero. [laughs] But yeah, I think with this list, especially, that’s definitely a fair assessment.



Authors Anonymous is currently playing in limited release.

This week at the movies, we’ve got a techno-dystopia (Transcendence, starring Johnny Depp and Rebecca Hall), a near-death experience (Heaven Is For Real, starring Greg Kinnear and Connor Corum), a bunch of furry carnivores (the nature documentary Bears), and some supernatural high jinks (A Haunted House 2, starring Marlon Wayans and Jaime Pressly). What do the critics have to say?



Transcendence

19%

Sometimes a movie needs more than an intriguing premise, an all-star cast, and a distinctive visual look. Critics say that’s the case with Transcendence, a surprisingly dull and narratively muddled sci-fi drama that’s short on suspense and logic. Johnny Depp stars as Will Caster, a leader in the field of artificial intelligence research who uploads his consciousness to a computer with the intent of creating a sentient machine. In doing so, Caster runs afoul of a group of militant luddites, who fear that humans have become too dependent on technology. The pundits say Transcendence is sleekly crafted, but it largely squanders its cast on a story that never quite coheres. (Check out our video interview with the stars, as well as this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Depp’s best-reviewed movies.)



Heaven Is for Real

51%

It’s an age-old puzzle for Hollywood: how to make films that appeal to devout Christians without alienating everyone else. Critics say that Heaven Is For Real ends up in the mushy middle, and the result is a well-acted, thoughtful tale that never quite follows through on the interesting questions it raises. Four-year-old Colton (Connor Corum) briefly flatlines during surgery; when he’s revived, he tells an incredible story about the deceased family members he met during his short visit to Heaven. Colton’s revelation awakens something in his father Todd (Greg Kinnear), a small-town pastor in the midst of a crisis of faith. The pundits say Heaven is for Real is well-made and often quite affecting, but its depiction of the afterlife leaves something to be desired.



Bears

90%

With Earth, Oceans, African Cats, and Chimpanzee, the good folks at Disneynature have delivered an unbroken string of high-quality nature documentaries. Critics say the streak continues with Bears, which offers breathtaking images of these animals in their natural environs and tends to avoid shoehorning its subjects into a narrative. Narrated by John C. Reilly, the film follows a mama grizzly bear and her two cubs as they try to survive in the Alaskan wilderness. The pundits say that Bears‘ furry protagonists are engaging and lovable, and the footage captured here is crisp and intimate. (Take a look through our gallery of memorable bears in the movies.)



A Haunted House 2

8%

Given the critical drubbing its predecessor received, it comes as little surprise that A Haunted House 2 wasn’t screened for reviewers prior to its release. Marlon Wayans stars as a man who moves with his new girlfriend and her kids to a new home that’s bedeviled by spectral spirits; hilarity ensues. Time to guess the Tomatometer!

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • The Final Member, a documentary about an Icelandic museum that houses a vast array of male genitalia from humans and animals, is at 100 percent.
  • Gabrielle, a drama about a love affair between two developmentally disabled adults, is at 100 percent.
  • Manakamana, a documentary about a cable car in Nepal that carries tourists and locals to a temple in the mountains, is at 100 percent.
  • Soft In The Head, a dramedy about a troubled woman who ends up living at a halfway house for men, is at 80 percent.
  • Small Time, a drama about a used-car salesman who teaches his son the tricks of the trade, is at 71 percent.
  • Proxy, a horror film about a woman dealing with tragedy who finds herself embroiled in a conspiracy when she joins a support group, is at 69 percent.
  • 13 Sins, starring Mark Webber and Ron Perlman in a thriller about a financially-strapped salesman who must undertake a series of increasingly dangerous challenges dictated to him via cell phone, is at 60 percent.
  • Fading Gigolo, starring Woody Allen and John Turturro in a comedy about a man who becomes an escort to help a friend in financial trouble, is at 57 percent.
  • That Demon Within, an action/horror hybrid about a young cop who suffers from hallucinations after providing a life-saving blood transfusion to a ruthless criminal, is at 44 percent.
  • Make Your Move, a drama about a pair of young people from different worlds who bond whie dancing, is at 20 percent.
  • Tasting Menu, a comedy about a disparate group of people who assemble for the closing of a world-class chef’s restaurant, is at 13 percent.
  • Authors Anonymous, starring Kaley Cuoco and Chris Klein in a mockumentary about a group of aspiring novelists, is at zero percent.
  • A Promise, starring Rebecca Hall and Alan Rickman in a period drama about an ambitious young man who falls for his boss’ married daughter, is at zero percent.

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