RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: MIB III and ParaNorman

Plus, a dance flick, a couple of films about sibling trios, and a bad supernatural thriller.

Last week we suffered from a dearth of worthy titles on home video, so it's nice that we have a wider variety to talk about this week. We start things off with a return visit with the Men in Black and another spooky stop-motion animation from the people who made Coraline. Then, we've got a couple of movies about siblings (some gangsters, and some motown singers), the latest in hippity-hoppitiest dance franchise, and another haunted house movie that bombed. See below for the full list!

Men in Black III

70%

Most agreed that Men in Black II suffered from extreme sequelitis, which led many to wonder why (besides the obvious rea$on$) anyone would bother revisiting the franchise a decade later. As it turned out, MIB III demonstrated flashes of the original film's freshness and benefited from charismatic performances. This time out, Agent J (Will Smith) travels back in time to team with a young Agent K (Josh Brolin) to save both K and the future of humankind. Though it perhaps didn't signal the beginning of a new chapter for the Men in Black, MIB III nevertheless managed to entertain most critics, who acknowledged its superiority to the second installment and marveled at Brolin's uncanny portrayal of a young Tommy Lee Jones. At 69%, it's a fun little special effects-laden adventure, even if it doesn't necessarily hold many surprises.

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ParaNorman

87%

In its first outing, stop-motion animation studio Laika, Inc. produced a hit in 2009's Coraline, so expectations were high for its 2012 follow-up, ParaNorman. Fortunately, critics say the latter largely lives up to those expectations, scoring a Certified Fresh 86% on the Tomatometer. Evoking the same dark yet charming tone found in Coraline, ParaNorman tells the story of an awkward boy named Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) who can communicate with the dead; when his town is overtaken by zombies, Norman must use his special gift to save everyone from an old curse. With top notch animation and a solid script, ParaNorman managed to woo critics, who were assured that Laika is no flash in the pan. The film might be a tad frightening for some very young viewers, but should otherwise satisfy audiences of all ages.

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Step Up: Revolution

42%

The Step Up franchise has never impressed the critics much, but up until its third installment, it represented one of those rare series whose film's Tomatometers rose with each sequel. The trend dipped a little from 2010's Step Up 3D to this year's Step Up: Revolution (aka Step Up 4: Miami Heat in some markets, as noted in the poster), but at 43%, Revolution still marks one of the relative high points of the franchise. This time, the setting is Miami, where an aspiring dancer (Kathryn McCormick) meets and falls in love with a street dancer (Ryan Guzman); together, they attempt to stop a greedy developer from tearing down a historic neighborhood. The story is all kinds of generic -- familiar stuff we've seen even in previous Step Up films -- but the dance sequences are as lively and kinetic as ever, so if this is your bag, have at it.

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Lawless

67%

Back in 2007, director John Hillcoat teamed with musician-turned-screenwriter Nick Cave for the Australian western The Proposition, which earned rave reviews. This year, they paired up again for a gritty true-life gangster tale about a Prohibition-era crime family, but the results weren't quite as spectacular. In Lawless, Shia Labeouf, Tom Hardy, and Jason Clarke play the Bondurant brothers, a trio of siblings running moonshine out of Virginia during the 1930s. When a corrupt Deputy begins threatening the brothers and other bootleggers, a bloody cycle of death and revenge ensues. While critics mostly acknowledged that Lawless was beautifully shot, powerfully acted, and appropriately grim, some found little beneath the surface to latch onto, leading to a 67% Tomatometer. For what it's worth, the talented supporting cast includes the likes of Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, and Mia Wasikowska.

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Sparkle

57%

The original 1976 film Sparkle wasn't a particularly good one, and if the 2012 update doesn't quite escape the clichés of its predecessor, it at least executes them with more style and conviction. American Idol winner Jordin Sparks tackles her first major dramatic role as Sparkle, the youngest of a trio of musically gifted sisters during the Motown era. Pursued both professionally and romantically by record exec Stix (Derek Luke), Sparkle attempts to embark on a music career with her siblings (Tika Sumpter and Carmen Ejogo), much to the dismay of her mother Emma (Whitney Houston), a former aspiring songstress herself. As the girls' talent catches the public eye, their growing fame simultaneously opens up new opportunities and leads them down dark paths. Critics found Sparkle sometimes overly melodramatic and a little old-fashioned, but thanks to Salim Akil's direction and some strong, committed performances (including Whitney Houston's final screen appearance), the film earned a 58% Tomatometer.

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The Apparition

3%

Haunted house movies are a dime a dozen these days, and specifically because there are so many of them, it's become increasingly difficult to put a fresh spin on the genre. Enter The Apparition, a supernatural thriller most notable for the fact that two members of its cast are alumni of recently completed YA adaptation franchises. Ashley Greene (of Twilight fame) plays Kelly, the unsuspecting girlfriend of Ben (Sebastian Stan), a budding parapsychologist who, along with pal Patrick (Tom Felton aka Draco Malfoy of the Harry Potter films) and a couple others, has inadvertently brought a malicious spirit into this world. Said spirit terrorizes Ben and Kelly while Patrick tries to warn them of the danger that threatens them, but will any of them survive? Well, critics apparently didn't care much, awarding The Apparition with a dismal 4% Tomatometer and citing its lack of originality, dramatic momentum and scares as reasons why it's more likely to put you asleep than anything else.

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