[caption id="attachment_149105" align="alignleft" width="300"] Annapurna Pictures[/caption]
This week: James Franco turns in one of the best performances of his career as a drug and arms dealer who corrupts four vacationing coeds in "Spring Breakers," the latest from director Harmony Korine.
[caption id="attachment_184588" align="alignright" width="220"] Lionsgate[/caption]
Box Office: $14 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 65% Fresh
Storyline: Four college girls (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine) who land themselves in jail after robbing a restaurant to fund their spring break vacation get bailed out by Florida drugs and arms dealer Alien (James Franco) and sink into more depravity in the latest comedy/horror/freak show by "Gummo" and "Trash Humpers" director Harmony Korine.
Extras!: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain a behind-the-scenes documentary, several making-of featurettes, outtakes, deleted scenes, musical performances and a commentary track by Korine.
We Say: If seeing coeds in neon bikinis gyrating to tweaker dubstep music while inhaling all kinds of drugs off strangers' bodies doesn't make you double up on your birth control efforts, you can't say you weren't properly warned. Korine goes dark — way dark — in his exploration of a trashy American rite of passage and corruptible youth, and the star of the show is Franco's Alien: a grilled, cornrowed, forever-quotable thug who encourages the girls to "Look at my s**t!" and intones "Spring Breaaaak" as if the words themselves were a sacred mantra. It's a terrifying/funny performance that should be remembered around Oscar time as Franco is crazy good in what is Korine's most cohesive narrative to date.
[caption id="attachment_184585" align="alignright" width="220"] Focus Features[/caption]
Box Office: $18 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 38% Rotten
Storyline: Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) is a Princeton admissions officer who screens out the very best for the prestigious university and travels the country searching for the best bright young minds. That is how she meets John (Paul Rudd), the principal of a small experimental elementary school, who insists that a student of his may not only be a child prodigy but possibly Portia's son who she gave up for adoption years earlier.
Extras!: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain three deleted scenes.
We Say: Fey and Rudd are incredibly likable comedic actors, so their first on-screen pairing should have been more of a gas. Instead, this fluffy PG-13 comedy gets saddled down with too many ridiculous subplots for the leads to make it work. They have OK chemistry, but the screenplay is just too tame for their talents.
'The Host' (2013)
[caption id="attachment_184587" align="alignright" width="220"] Universal[/caption]
Box Office: $27 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 9% Rotten
Storyline: The latest movie adaptation of a book by "Twilight" author Stephenie Meyer stars Saoirse Ronan as Melanie Stryder, a young girl who will risk everything to protect the people she cares most about —J ared (Max Irons), Ian (Jake Abel), her brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) and her Uncle Jeb (William Hurt) — when unseen aliens start taking over human bodies and erasing their memories.
Extras!: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain a commentary track, four deleted scenes, a gushing "Bringing 'The Host' to Life" featurette and a faux PSA in support of the alien agenda.
We Say: The makers of this sci-fi stinker wanted to lure in the Young Adult crowd that made Meyer's "Twilight" a global phenomenon, but that didn't happen and "The Host" mercifully isn't going to get a second round. Ronan is a talented young actress who impressed in movies like "Hanna" but here she seems embarrassed by the shoddy subject matter and is awkward and unconvincing as a romantic lead. Chalk this up as the latest YA misfire, right behind "Beautiful Creatures" and "I Am Number Four." How many YA movies like this have to crash and burn before Hollywood puts the kibosh on desperate "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games" wannabes?
'Dead Man Down'
[caption id="attachment_184586" align="alignright" width="220"] Sony[/caption]
Box Office: $11 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 37% Rotten
Storyline: Victor (Colin Farrell), a professional killer and right-hand man to an underground crime lord (Terrence Howard) in New York City, is seduced and blackmailed by a crime victim (Noomi Rapace) seeking retribution for a disfiguring injury. The two hatch a violent and cathartic plan for revenge in this R-rated thriller directed by Niels Arden Oplev.
Extras!: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain "Firefight Choreography," "Cinematography of 'Dead Man Down'" and interviews with the ensemble cast about the intricate behind-the-scenes work that went into making the film.
We Say: "Dead Man Down" has some explosive sequences and well-shot moments, like when Rapace and Farrell flirt with each other from their adjacent skyscraper apartment buildings. It's a shame that the sluggish pace can't keep the excitement level elevated and the increasingly silly plot twists throw believability off one of the character's high-rise balconies.
Also New This Week:
"The Jerk" Blu-ray
"Would You Rather"
"Cohen & Tate" Blu-ray