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DVD/Blu-ray Roundup for Dec. 4, 2015

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Welcome back to another edition featuring DVD and Blu-ray release highlights. As always, be sure to click on any links to read more about the movies. So if you can’t make it out to the movies this week, be sure to give one of these titles a try.

Big New Releases!

90 Minutes in Heaven - After dying in a car accident, a man is brought back to life and struggles to function again after experiencing Heaven. As you might have already guessed, this is a Christian-themed film directed at a specific audience. Reviewers didn’t respond well to it, suggesting that while it may have been well intentioned, the pacing was slow and the dialogue silly. It stars Hayden Christensen, Kate Bosworth and Dwight Yoakam.

Amy - This documentary from the maker of Senna provides an intimate portrait of the popular recording artist Amy Winehouse, who completed only two acclaimed albums before dying of a drug overdose. Critics praised it, calling the film an informative effective documentary that shows a lot of insight into the personal life of a talented but troubled individual. Reportedly, it also features plenty of never-before-seen footage of the young star.

Assassination - Set in the 1930’s, this action/drama from (and set in) South Korea follows a group of outlaws who attempt to break a hit man out of prison. They do it to assist them in killing a general who is part of the Japanese forces. The movie was a blockbuster in its homeland and the press gave it positive notices - they claimed that while it was overstuffed, there was plenty of great action and intrigue to keep viewers interested. It features Jung-woo Ha and Gianna Jun.

Cooties - A group of kindergarten teachers must band together when a virus infects all of the students and turns them into rampaging, zombie-like monsters. Despite the interesting concept, this horror-comedy received mixed to negative reviews from reviewers. They stated that the movie wasted its concept on lame, predictable jokes that straddled the line and occasionally veered into bad taste. At least it has an interesting cast that includes Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill, Jack McBrayer, Nasim Pedrad and Kate Flannery.

Goodnight Mommy - This creepy Austrian effort involves a pair of kids living out in the country with their celebrity mom. She’s just had facial surgery and the children suddenly decide that the woman they’re living with isn’t their actual mother. Thus begins a series of nasty acts. Notices were very strong for this effort, calling it chilling and effective. Personally, I thought it was well acted and gorgeously shot, but nothing horror fans haven’t seen done before (and more effectively) in films like Audition. The foreign-language production stars Susanne Wuest and twins Lukas and Elias Schwarz.

Mississippi Grind - A superstitious poker player convinces an acquaintance/good luck charm to travel with him on a road trip to a high stakes tournament in New Orleans. Along the way, the two open up about their flaws and fears. Critics were very positive about this drama, although it didn’t get much attention during its limited theatrical run. They stated that it was downbeat, but praised the character work of the two main leads and complimented the story as being curiously unpredictable. Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds, Sienna Miller and Alfre Woodard headline the film.

Mistress America - In the latest comedy from Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, While We’re Young), a young college freshman is forced to meet her eccentric, soon-to-be sister-in-law. The young student is taken aback by her new friend’s free spirit and follows her on one of her many wild and endearingly flawed schemes. Reviewers really enjoyed the movie, calling star Greta Gerwig’s performance charming and engaging. They also complimented the witty, Woody Allen-esque dialogue. It also features Lola Kirke.

Return to Sender - After a woman is assaulted while on a blind date, she attempts to overcome her condition by contacting her attacker in prison. The two begin to form a relationship and agree to meet up when he is released. But her intentions may actually be to enact revenge. The press panned this effort, writing that while it had some creepy moments, the writing wasn’t particularly strong and the movie had a straight-to-video feel. The cast includes Rosamund Pike, Shiloh Fernandez, Nick Nolte, Camryn Manheim, Illeana Douglas and Ryan Phillippe.

Roger Waters: The Wall - This concert film captures the Pink Floyd lead singer presenting The Wall 1980 album and 1982 BAFTA Award-winning feature reinterpreted as a live concert spectacle. There is also plenty of backstage footage and road trip footage of Waters visiting with family members and explaining the themes of the project, adding to the experience. It’s one of the most impressive and elaborate shows ever produced, so fans of the album will definitely want to pick it up.

Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans - Le Mans (1971) was a very elaborate narrative film that was a passion project of star Steve McQueen - this documentary chronicles the movie’s long and difficult production. Odd things that happened on the troubled set include the original director abandoning the filming, and the popular lead dealing with death threats from a psychotic fan. Notices were good, suggesting that there was some interesting material presented, although many felt that the finished film was mediocre and didn’t really merit this much attention.

Some Kind of Beautiful - A womanizing Cambridge professor yearns for a more lasting relationship than his steady stream of undergrad flings. He’s initially happy to learn his latest girlfriend is pregnant, but complications arise when he falls for his student’s older sister. This flick got terrible reviews, saying the talented cast was completely wasted in a slow-moving, by-the-numbers plot with lame gags. Yeowch! The cast includes Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Jessica Alba and Malcolm McDowell.

Blasts From the Past!

Kino Lorber have some notable Blu-rays arriving as well. If you like Joel McCrea, you can pick up Fort Massacre (1958) and The Gunfight at Dodge City (1959). Both of which feature the actor. Love at Large (1990) is a comic take on a film noir thriller - it’s about a private eye hired by a woman to follow her around and ensure that her significant other isn’t trying to kill her. Tom Berenger, Elizabeth Perkins, Anne Archer, Kate Capshaw, Annette O’Toole, Anne Magnuson and Ted Levine are featured performers.

Queen of Blood (1966) sounds like an a curious little B-movie. It stars John Saxon, Basil Rathbone and Dennis Hopper in a sci-fi tale of an alien ship that crash lands on Mars - a group of space explorers investigate and find a beautiful woman inside. But is she a friend or foe? Robbers’ Roost (1955) is another western (this time featuring George Montgomery) and anthology horror fans can pick up Twice Told Tales (1963), a fun little scare flick that includes Vincent Price in its cast.

Criterion are unveiling an impressive Blu-ray of the drama Downhill Racer (1969). It’s about a US National Ski Team member who clashes with his coach. The movie stars Robert Redford and Gene Hackman. Besides the new high-definition transfer to disc, bonuses include retrospective interviews with cast and crew members, audio excerpts from a film seminar with the director, a promotional feature made for the film’s original release, and a  trailer.

Finally, Arrow have the cheesy slasher The Mutilator (1984) arriving in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack with plenty of extras for fans of B-movie horror.

You Know, For Kids!

Hope your kids like Angry Birds, because they’re dominating the children’s releases this week.

Angry Birds - Stella: Season 1

Angry Birds Toons: Season 2, Vol. 1

Piggy Tales: Season 1

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): Vol. 8

The Wild Thornberrys: The Complete Series