[caption id="attachment_133811" align="alignleft" width="300"] Pixar[/caption]
This week: Pixar churns out another animated blockbuster with "Brave," featuring the voices of Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Waters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson and many more.
[caption id="attachment_153724" align="alignright" width="220"] Disney DVD[/caption]
Box Office: $236 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 78% Fresh
Storyline: Set in the Highlands of Scotland, Pixar's latest animated adventure follows a different kind of princess named Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald). The strong-willed archer defies a sacred custom of her people and unleashes chaos in the kingdom, forcing Merida to use all of her resources — including her triplet brothers — to undo a beastly curse and discover the true meaning of bravery.
Extras! Both the DVD and Blu-ray have two additional animated shorts. There is also a kingdom's worth of Blu-ray exclusives, including making-of featurettes, an art gallery, extended scenes, an alternative opening and more. To explore a brave new dimension, "Brave" is also available in a Blu-ray 3D combo pack.
We Say: There are enough fairy tales and Disney movies about a princess who needs rescued by a dashing prince, so it's refreshing that "Brave" has a female protagonist that is headstrong and can take care of herself. The story might not be meaty enough for older viewers, but everyone can appreciate the latest Pixar film's clean and eye-popping animation.
[caption id="attachment_153725" align="alignright" width="220"] Universal[/caption]
Box Office: $47 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 51% Rotten
Storyline: Oliver Stone's latest film follows two best friends (Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson) whose lucrative marijuana business based in Laguna Beach, California has attracted the unwanted attention of the Mexican Baja Cartel, headed up by the ruthless Elena (Salma Hayek). Benicio Del Toro leads Elena's pack of thugs, John Travolta plays a crooked drug enforcement agent and Blake Lively plays the free-spirited hippie chick who is held hostage by the cartel because she's the shared object of desire of both Kitsch and Johnson.
Extras! Both the DVD and Blu-ray have a commentary track by Stone but only the Blu-ray has a five-part making-of feature called "Stone Cold Savages" filled with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew.
We Say: Both the R-rated and unrated cuts of the film are violent and sexy, like any good Oliver Stone picture should be. The best elements of this drug war opus are Hayek, whose maternal instincts are her only vulnerability, Del Toro's scary turn as a trigger-happy enforcer and Travolta as the slithery DE agent who will do anything to save his skin. The weakest links are Lively as the narrator/perma-baked California girl who is passed between the two lead guys like an old joint and the film's double ending that favors fantasy over gritty realism.
[caption id="attachment_153726" align="alignright" width="220"] 20th Century Fox[/caption]
Box Office: $35 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 17% Rotten
Storyline: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade star as four residents of the otherwise peaceful Glenview, Ohio who start a neighborhood watch and discover an alien threat to destroy the Earth.
Extras! Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain deleted scenes, a gag reel, "Alien Invasions and You" and "Casting the Alien." Exclusive to the Blu-ray are "Jonah Alternate Takes" and "Watchmakers."
We Say: The promising set-up leads to some intermittent mild giggles, but the funny leads are mostly wasted in this juvenile male-bonding flick with R-rated potty humor. Stiller seems angry at his agent as he chases around day players dressed in rubber suits, Vaughn's nervous chatter grates on the nerves and Hill phones in a performance that is pretty similar to the character he already played in "21 Jump Street." This is a sci-fi comedy in which the aliens can only be destroyed by being shot in the penis (where their brains are), which should tell you all you need to know.
'Lawrence of Arabia' Blu-ray
[caption id="attachment_153727" align="alignright" width="220"] Sony[/caption]
Box Office: $45 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 98% Fresh
Storyline: This 1962 epic based on the life of T.E. Lawrence won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and is considered one of the most influential films ever made. Peter O'Toole stars as the titular British officer assigned to Arabia during World War I who unites the warring Arab factions into one cohesive guerrilla front and leads them into victory over the ruling Turkish Empire.
Extras! The 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition comes packaged with a handsome 88-page coffee-table book, a soundtrack CD and an authentic 70mm film frame. The Blu-ray itself has exhaustive supplemental features, including a picture-in-picture graphic track, advertising campaigns, a never-before-seen deleted scene, an all-new interview with Martin Scorsese about the film, archival interviews, a making-of documentary, newsreel footage of the New York premiere and much more.
We Say: One of the greatest films of all time gets the royal treatment for its Blu-ray debut and, while watching, it's sometimes difficult to believe the movie is a half-century old due to the near-flawless transfer that makes it look like it was filmed yesterday. The epic film is a butt-challenging 228 minutes, which makes it ideal for home viewing as the Blu-ray can be removed from the player in the middle of the movie and, the next time the disc is inserted, the player remembers exactly where you stopped to take a breather.
Also New This Week:
"2 Days in New York"
"Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" Blu-ray
"My Big Fat Greek Wedding" 10th Anniversary Special Edition Blu-ray
"Watchmen" Collector's Edition
"Nitro Circus the Movie"