Hugo – Martin Scorsese's whimsical adaptation of Brian Selznick's magical realism-infused novel is a relentlessly charming, although a slightly overrated family film that panders to cineastes more so than kids and parents looking for a breezy good time. Set in 1930s Paris, it's a tale of an orphan (Asa Butterfield) who lives in a train station while trying to piece together his life, a mystery involving his father, and to help out a bitter old man (Ben Kingsley) while avoiding a bumbling lawman (Sacha Baron Cohen). Scorsese makes the film a loving tribute to the power and history of cinema, which is all well and good as long as you're not expecting it to dazzle your kids. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo includes breakdowns of the brilliant visual effects, as well as a close look at Cohen's role.
I Melt With You – Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven, Rob Lowe and Christian McKay play college buddies who get together for a bros' weekend to blow off steam and reconnect. What starts off as a The Big Chill-like nostalgia trip takes a bizarre twist into thriller territory, losing much of its goodwill. The performances are enthusiastic enough, but the story's wheels fall off toward the end. A hefty slate of extras includes deleted scenes, a pair of commentary tracks and an interview with the director.
Johnny English Reborn – You either "get" Rowan Atkinson or you don't. I fall in the latter category. Instead of seeing comic genius, I just see someone who tries way too hard and receives diminishing returns rather than laughs. The structure of this weak sequel does him no favors, casting him as a rogue agent on the run to clear his name. The film healf-heartedly mocks James Bond tropes but ends up doing a better job of mocking itself. The Blu-ray/digital copy combo includes deleted scenes, a making-of featurette and character profiles.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: The Friendship Express – The 1980s series has been revived in a major way, blessed with sharp animation and subtly subversive writing and plotting geared to make the show appeal to adults as much as children. There's even a large group of men, labeled "Bronies," who unapologetically worship and analyze every episode. I don't count myself among that group, but certainly have no trouble sitting through episodes with my 3-year-old daughter. There's not much here in the way of extras.
Vanya on 42nd Street Blu-ray – Respected director Louis Malle's final film was this 1994 adaptation of the Anton Chekhov play Uncle Vanya, with a peppy screenplay adaptation by David Mamet. An impressive cast, including Wallace Shawn, Julianne Moore and George Gaynes (Henry Warnimont from Punky Brewster) rocks the movie, a very meta table reading of a play about fear and loathing among a group of bitter, cynical friends, family and and unsatisfied/unrequited lovers. Criterion gives the movie a big, wet kiss, with a lengthy tribute booklet and a documentary on the making of the film.
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