RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Dredd, Frankenweenie, and More

A few thrillers, a road comedy, and a visual essay round out the list.

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This week, we return to a regular rotation of home video releases with a few notable selections and, as always, a few less than notable ones. Among the choices are a well received comic-based action film, Tim Burton's latest stop-motion project, a Qatsi-esque visual collage, and a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller. In addition, there's also a Jennifer Lawrence-powered horror dud, a hit-and-miss road trip comedy, and an implausible Nic Cage heist flick. See below for the full list!

Dredd

78%

One of the most well known UK comic heroes, Judge Dredd already received the big screen treatment back in 1995 with no less than Sly Stallone in the title role. Unfortunately, that film was an all-around disappointment, critically, commercially, and for fans. Enter 2012's Dredd, a reintroduction of the character rather than a remake, with Karl Urban as the eponymous Judge and Olivia Thirlby as his tenderfoot sidekick Judge Anderson. Set in a dystopian future where Judges play every law enforcement role -- including executioner -- Dredd and Anderson infiltrate a 200-story highrise to shut down a drug lord named Ma-Ma (Lena Headey); lots of blood and mayhem ensue. Critics found Dredd a refreshing new take on the character, fueled by impressive special effects, deadpan humor, and a good bit of the old ultraviolence. Certified Fresh at 78%, this actioner might even manage to wipe the image of a wisecracking Rob Schneider from your memory.

Frankenweenie

87%

Before he found his soul mates in Johnny Depp and Danny Elfman, Tim Burton put together a short film about young boy who brings his pet dog back to life and called it Frankenweenie. Since that film -- originally intended to play before screenings of Disney's Pinocchio in 1984 -- was deemed too scary for young audiences, Burton waited until he was a big name before bringing the little pooch back to the cinemas, this time in stop-motion animation. The story is essentially an embellished version of the short: a young boy by the name of Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan) brings his dog Sparky back to life, but his classmates also discover the reanimation formula and inadvertently begin turning dead animals into monsters; it's up to Victor and Sparky to help save the town. Frankenweenie is about as "Tim Burton" as you can get, but his personal touch, his obvious love for both the story and the stop-motion craft, infuses the film with energy. Certified Fresh at 89%, it's an odd little family movie, but one that's fun to watch.

House at the End of the Street

10%

It's a tricky thing to earn an Oscar nod early in your career; folks will forever expect the same quality of work with every new role. Jennifer Lawrence earned a Best Actress nomination for her work in Winter's Bone, and while (almost) every film she's done since then has been Fresh, 2012's House at the End of the Street proves they can't all be winners. In this horror thriller, a divorced mother (Elisabeth Shue) and her daughter Elissa (Lawrence) move into a new home, next door to a house with a dark past. The sole survivor (Max Thieriot) of a grisly murder spree years ago still occupies that house, and when he and Elissa begin a relationship, she slowly begins to unravel all the terrible secrets that exist. If you were looking for a few scares, critics say you won't find them here; at 11% on the Tomatometer, House at the End of the Street is a poorly executed chiller that makes little use of its star's talents. Good thing she did Silver Linings Playbook to make up for it.

Hit & Run

49%

The first time Dax Shepard and David Palmer teamed up to direct a movie (2011's Brother's Justice), they earned a 0% Tomatometer score, so they didn't have to do much to improve their record the second time around. And improve they did, to a much better (but still Rotten) 47%, with last year's Hit & Run, a raucous road trip comedy about a former getaway driver (Shepard) who abandons his witness protection program identity so he can drive his girlfriend (Shepard's real life gal pal Kristen Bell) to a job interview in Los Angeles. On the way, the couple are pursued by a friend from his past (Bradley Cooper), an ex-girlfriend (Kristin Chenoweth), and a US Marshall (Tom Arnold). Critics admitted that Hit & Run featured some interesting surprises, but also felt the action was underwhelming and the writing wasn't quite up to par.

Stolen

16%

Nicolas Cage and director Simon West have made one other film together, 1997's Con Air, an over-the-top actioner that has amassed somewhat of a cult fandom. 2012's Stolen, however, isn't likely to achieve the same. Cage stars as Will Montgomery, a recently released bank robber who was imprisoned for a $10 million heist. A former partner (Josh Lucas) believes he still has access to the stolen loot, so he kidnaps Will's daughter (Sami Gayle), prompting Will to rob another bank just to pay the ransom. Unfortunately, for all its would-be tension and heist intrigue, critics found Stolen a rather ineffectual thriller, with its requisite impossible leaps of logic, unimaginative exposition, and a surprisingly muted performance from the typically animated Cage. It currently sits at 13%, so don't say we didn't warn you.

Samsara

77%

Ron Fricke has already directed two films in the same vein as the Qatsi trilogy, the first film of which he served on as cinematographer. Both 1987's Chronos and 1993's Baraka are visual documentaries, collages of powerful and evocative images set to music and devoid of narration, and Samsara offers more of the same. Fricke spent five years collecting footage in twenty-five countries for this meditative exploration of life's interconnection, depicting various peoples and landscapes ranging from sacred grounds to industrial sites. Though critics felt its message was a bit heavy-handed, they granted that the incredible visuals -- shot in 70mm -- were more than enough to make up for any narrative flaws. Certified Fresh at 76%, Samsara isn't going to appeal to everyone, but for those looking for something slightly beyond typical cinema, it should provide a beautiful, thought-provoking experience.

Compliance

89%

"Truth is stranger than fiction," as they say, and it often makes for really compelling cinema. Case in point: Compliance, a little-seen thriller whose plot was largely based on a real life prank phone call made in 2004 to a McDonald's in Kentucky. Ann Dowd plays Sandra, a fast food restaurant manager who receives a phone call from a man who identifies himself as a police officer and implicates a female employee (Dreama Walker) in a crime. The employee in question, Becky, is compelled by legal threats from the caller to retire to an office in the back of the restaurant, where the caller's demands escalate from searching Becky's pockets to having Becky remove all her clothing, and worse. As others are pulled into the scam, the caller becomes increasingly bold until everything unravels. Critics found Compliance both gripping and disturbing, anchored by smart direction from Craig Zobel and strong, committed performances, particularly from Ann Dowd, who's already earned accolades for her work here. Certified Fresh at 89%, Compliance may be tough to watch for some, but it displays fine filmmaking from all involved.

Also available this week:

  • The original 1962 Cape Fear (95%), starring Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, and Martin Balsam, on Blu-ray.
  • Multiple Oscar-winner Mrs. Miniver (91%), directed by William Wyler and starring Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, and Teresa Wright, on Blu-ray.
  • Clssic 1932 ensemble drama Grand Hotel (89%), starring Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, John Barrymore, and others, on Blu-ray.
  • Another multiple Oscar-winner, Driving Miss Daisy (Certified Fresh at 79%), on Blu-ray.
  • The HBO film Game Change (63%), starring Ed Harris, Woody Harrelson, and Julianne Moore in the story of Sarah Palin's candidacy for Vice President in 2008.
  • Inspirational sports drama Touchback (42%), starring Kurt Russell, Brian Presley, and Melanie Lynskey.

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