This week on home video, we’ve got a new action thriller from Luc Besson, a mediocre Conjuring spinoff, and Laika’s latest stop-motion feature film. Then we also have a number of notable smaller films, like a Certified Fresh crime drama starring Tom Hardy and an acclaimed documentary about an internet activist. Read on for details:



Lucy

67%

French writer-director Luc Besson has been the brains behind some of the most gleefully brainless thrillers in recent memory, like the Taken franchise, and though he doesn’t get behind the camera as often as he once did, we still get something like Lucy every once in a while. Scarlett Johansson stars as an American ex-pat living in Taiwan who is forced to become a drug mule by a Korean mob boss. When the experimental drug begins seeping into her system, she begins to experience heightened physical and mental abilities, which she utilizes to seek revenge. Besson has a thing for powerful leading ladies, and Lucy seems to be aware of its own silliness, so critics were relatively kind to the film, ludicrous logic and all. It may dumbfound you and confound you, but if you’re looking for a cheesy actioner, this may do the trick.



Annabelle

29%

The very beginning of 2013’s horror hit The Conjuring introduced audiences to the paranormal team of Ed and Lorraine Warren via the story of a mysterious doll named Annabelle. While we wait for the sequel to that film, the producers thought, “Eh, why not throw’em a bone in the meantime?” Hence, last year’s Annabelle, a Conjuring spinoff that includes the same introductory scene from the earlier film and builds off that to explain the origins of the creepy possessed doll that makes things go bump in the night. Unfortunately, critics weren’t too impressed with the story, which, like a lot of horror films these days, simply borrows elements from better predecessors and attempts to jump-scare you into submission. At just 29 percent on the Tomatometer, Annabelle is kind of a poor appetizer for The Conjuring 2, but if you just want to spend more time in that universe, it’ll do.



The Boxtrolls

78%

The stop-motion animation studio Laika had great success with their first two features, 2009’s Coraline and 2012’s ParaNorman, so there was some anticipation for their third, The Boxtrolls. Isaac Hempstead-Wright leads an all-star voice cast as Eggs, a human boy raised by the titular Boxtrolls in an underground home beneath the city of Cheesebridge. The Boxtrolls are misunderstood, however, and when an exterminator named Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) vows to wipe them out, Eggs teams up with this first human friend, Winnie (Elle Fanning), to save his family. If you’ve seen the trailer for this film, you know that its visuals are both typically spectacular and a little off-kilter, which is also indicative of its sense of humor. Though it’s not Laika’s best effort to date, it’s still an entertaining family film that’s fascinating to watch.

Also available this week:

  • The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (93 percent), a Certified Fresh documentary about the programming wiz (and Reddit co-founder) whose tireless efforts in information activism resulted in legal troubles and, ultimately, suicide at the age of 26.
  • The Drop (89 percent), starring Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini in a Certified Fresh crime thriller about a bartender who gets targeted by the Chechen mob when a robbery goes awry.
  • The Mule (85 percent), a dark comedy about a drug mule who decides withhold evidence by not… performing his bodily functions.
  • The Green Prince (77 percent), a documentary about Mosab Hassan Yousef, a Palestinian who operated as an Israeli spy.
  • William H. Macy’s Rudderless (63 percent), starring Billy Crudup and Anton Yelchin in the story of a grieving father who discovers his son’s demo tapes and decides to form a band to play the music.
  • Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem (52 percent), starring Christoph Waltz and Matt Damon in a sci-fi drama about a computer genius tasked with discovering the meaning of life.
  • White Bird in a Blizzard (49 percent), starring Shailene Woodley in a coming-of-age drama about a young woman whose mother goes missing and who slowly comes to grips with the truth about the disappearance.
  • A Little Game, starring Janeane Garofalo and F. Murray Abraham in a family drama about a young girl who doesn’t get along with her peers but becomes unlikely friends with a local chess master.
This week at the movies, we’ve got just one wide release: the hotly-anticipated The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth. What do the critics have to say?


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

69%

Sure, it makes business sense to stretch the Hunger Games series as far as it can go — but does it make artistic sense? Critics say the answer is a tentative yes; while The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is decidedly short on action, its exceptional cast and intriguing ideas still make for compelling viewing. War is brewing throughout the land, and the skill and compassion that Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has displayed in the Hunger Games has made her a folk hero for the rebellion. But while Katniss is uncomfortable in her new role as a symbol, she teams with a band of rebels in order to ensure her family’s safety and rescue her old partner Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) from the Capital. The pundits say The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 provides a deeper look into the trials and tribulations of District 13, even if it sometimes feels like an extended cliffhanger for the final chapter. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Lawrence’s best-reviewed films, as well as our video interviews with the stars.)

New on TV:


The pundits say The Missing (Certified Fresh at 96 percent) turns a common premise into a standout thriller, thanks to heartfelt, affecting performances.


Critics say State of Affairs (22 percent) benefits from Alfre Woodard’s talent, but this overly serious show is dragged down by Katherine Heigl’s unsympathetic character and a surfeit of unintentional laughs.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • The King and the Mockingbird, a long-gestating animated fable about a despotic ruler in love with a shepherdess, is at 100 percent.
  • The Mule, starring Hugo Weaving in a black comedy about a suspected drug mule who struggles to keep from turning over his stash to the authorities, is at 94 percent.
  • Bad Hair, a drama about a nine-year-old Venezuelan boy whose mother objects to his attempts to straighten his curly locks, is at 93 percent.
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, an atmospheric horror film about a skateboarding vampire and her tentative love affair with a blue-collar boy, is at 91 percent.
  • Happy Valley, a documentary about the Penn State community and its response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal, is at 84 percent.
  • Pulp: a Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets, a rock doc about the Britpop legends’ 2012 farewell show, is at 82 percent.
  • Little Hope Was Arson, a documentary about a spate of church burnings in rural Texas, is at 80 percent.
  • Late Phases, a horror movie about a werewolf that terrorizes a retirement community, is at 63 percent.
  • The Sleepwalker, a thriller about a simmering family resentments that come to light when a young woman is contacted by her estranged sister, is at 57 percent.
  • V/H/S: Viral, the third in the series of found-footage horror anthology films, is at 46 percent.
  • Extraterrestrial, a horror film about a group of teenagers on vacation at a secluded cabin when they come face-to-face with an alien invasion, is at 38 percent.
  • Reach Me, starring Kyra Sedgwick and Sylvester Stallone in a drama about a mysterious author who inspires a cult following, is at zero percent.

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