The new year is almost upon us, which means most of you have already bought all the holiday gifts you’re going to buy this year. Having said that, this week’s home video releases are a little more off beat than last week’s, even if they aren’t as well-reviewed. Read on for details:



The Equalizer

60%

Little girls in peril really seem to set Denzel Washington on the warpath, don’t they? Washington reunited with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua for this gritty thriller based on the 1980s television series of the same name, and though results were less impressive this time around, critics mostly thought The Equalizer was a decent flick. Chloe Grace Moretz plays the damselette in distress, a teenage sex worker named Alina who happens to be pals with ex-black ops agent Robert McCall (Washington). When Alina is beaten by her pimp, McCall takes him out, running afoul of the Russian mob and throwing himself back into a life he swore he’d leave behind. Those looking for a bit of swift, stylish justice meted out by an aging but still effective Denzel will get plenty of that — and, frankly, little else — here, but sometimes that’s okay; critics largely thought it was enough, anyway, awarding the film a 61 percent Tomatometer. It’s another thin week for new releases, so this’ll make a decent watch for action junkies.



Tusk

45%

Kevin Smith?s second foray into horror wasn’t a huge failure, but it wasn’t especially well-received by critics, either. In fact, the story behind Tusk‘s creation is arguably more interesting than the film itself: Smith and fellow Smodcast-er Scott Mosier came across an ad placed for free living space… provided that the tenant dress like a walrus. The ad was later revealed to be a joke, but that didn’t stop Smith and Mosier from conjuring an entire hypothetical story about a man who is held captive and slowly transformed into a walrus by a mad surgeon, and thanks to Smodcast fans who voted to have the tale brought to life on screen, Tusk was born. Critics appreciated the film’s wry self-awareness, but felt that the story’s premise nevertheless was too thin to stretch into a feature-length film, resulting in a mediocre 39 percent Tomatometer. If you’re looking for a bit of ridiculous genre fun, this might do it for you, but don’t expect to be blown away.

Also available this week:

  • Stephen King’s A Good Marriage (37 percent), starring Joan Allen and Anthony LaPaglia in a thriller about a woman who discovers what may be her husband’s darkest secret while he is away on business.
  • Last Weekend (29 percent), starring Patricia Clarkson in a dramedy about a family matriarch who gathers her sons to their vacation home for a final weekend together before she sells it.
  • Elsa & Fred (25 percent), starring Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer in a comedy about two aging romantics who find each other.
  • Season four of Showtime’s Shameless (100 percent), starring William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum in a dark comedy centered around a highly dysfunctional family, is available on DVD and Blu-ray.
  • Season two of Cinemax’s Banshee (89 percent), about an ex-con who assumes the identity of a murdered local sherriff, is also available on DVD and Blu-ray.
This week at the movies, we’ve got a spy on the run (The November Man, starring Pierce Brosnan and Olga Kurylenko), some haunted explorers (As Above/So Below, starring Perdita Weeks and Ben Feldman/), and four supernatural elimination specialists (Ghostbusters, starring Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd). What do the critics have to say?



The November Man

36%

Pierce Brosnan is best known for his stint as cinema’s greatest spy, James Bond. He plays a different sort of espionage agent in The November Man; unfortunately, critics say that while the film is slick and competently made, it suffers from convoluted plotting and middling dialogue. Brosnan stars as Peter Devereaux, an ex-CIA agent who’s lured out of retirement to protect an important witness. However, Devereaux quickly discovers that everyone’s out to get him. The pundits say that Brosnan is strong as a thoughtful, haunted protagonist, but The November Man is largely a generic spy thriller that’s weighted down by an overloaded narrative. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Brosnan’s best-reviewed films.)



As Above/So Below

26%

What better place to set a horror movie than the catacombs beneath Paris, where the bones of millions of souls are part of an intricate series of dark tunnels? Critics say As Above/So Below occasionally takes full advantage of its chilling locale, but its characters aren’t particularly well-developed. It’s the story of three adventure seekers on a quest to find a mythical artifact. When they venture into the catacombs, however, they’re forced to confront horrors both tangible and psychological. The pundits say As Above/So Below is atmospheric and occasionally spooky, but it lacks the weight and urgency necessary to be a true head-trip.



Ghostbusters

If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call? Yes, that’s right: Ghostbusters, one of the most beloved comedies of the 1980s is back in theaters in celebration of its 30th anniversary. Critics found it to be a sublime blend of witty banter and inspired special effects, and it’s barely dated a lick since its original release.

Also opening this week in limited release:

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