This week’s releases include: the implosion of an Aussie crime family; an historical epic told through the eyes of an unlikely character; a sketch comedy bonanza; a science fiction drama that takes alternate realities to the extreme; an epic gangster narrative that spans 35 years; countless bloody deaths caused by ancient fish; and an account of a creation that changed the world.

Animal Kingdom on DVDAnimal Kingdom (DVD)
Following the death of his mother, 17-year–old Joshua ‘J’ Cody (James Frecheville) moves in with his hitherto estranged family, under the watchful eye of his doting grandmother, Janine ‘Smurf’ Cody (Jacki Weaver) and her three criminal sons. Eldest son and armed robber, Andrew ‘Pope’ Cody (Ben Mendelsohn) is in hiding from a gang of renegade detectives. Middle brother Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) is a successful but volatile drug dealer, while the youngest Cody, Darren (Luke Ford), naïvely follows his elder brothers’ lead. Just as Pope’s business partner and best friend, Barry Brown (Joel Edgerton), decides that he wants out of the game, tensions between the family and the police explode. J finds himself at the centre of a cold–blooded revenge plot that turns his family upside down and throws him directly into the path of senior homicide detective, Nathan Leckie (Guy Pearce).

The title suggests a constant fight for survival in a wild environment and, though it proves true, it’s not quite as interesting as something you might catch on the Discovery channel. This is a family of career criminals with a supporting mother willing to do anything to protect her sons. When J arrives, he’s welcomed as one of them and given a bird’s eye view of the family business, but he’s never wholly trusted. The story hits most of the expected marks, but still manages a bit of a surprise ending. Overall, however, it progresses slowly and has difficulty retaining your full attention.

Special features include: commentary by director Divid Michod; a making-of featurette; interviews; behind-the-scenes footage; and the trailer. (Entertainment One)

The Devil's Mistress on DVDThe Devil’s Mistress (DVD)
Set between the years 1642 and 1660, the mini-series also known as “The Devil’s Whore” charts the progress of the English Civil War through the eyes of a 17-year-old girl, the fictional Angelica Fanshawe (Andrea Riseborough), as she exploits a country in crisis in a bid to better her own position. Angelica abandons her loyalties to the Royal Family following the execution of her childhood sweetheart and first husband, Harry Fanshawe. Destitute, she finds herself on the wrong side of the law, suddenly embroiled in murder and misadventure in a bitter struggle for survival.

Special features include: a behind-the-scenes featurette. (Entertainment One)

Funny or Die: Season 1 on DVDFunny or Die Presents: The Complete First Season (DVD)
Executive produced by three of the celebrated masterminds behind the groundbreaking Funny or Die website – Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Chris Henchy – this half-hour sketch-comedy series provides a creative forum for dozens of America’s most talented comedians, actors and writers all contributing segments to the so-called “Funny or Die Network,” in an anything-goes comedy environment. From animated vignettes and music videos, to faux commercials and recurring sketches such as “Playground Politics” and “Drunk History.”

If you’ve seen any of the many celebrity videos posted on the website, you know what to expect in this off-the-wall comedic series. If you haven’t, you’ve probably been living under a rock. In addition to a lot of laughter, you get to watch some of your favourite actors do things you never thought you’d see them do.

There are no special features.

Mr. Nobody on DVDMr. Nobody
Nemo Nobody (Jared Leto) leads an ordinary existence at his wife’s side, Elise (Sarah Polley), and their three children until the day when reality skids and he wakes up as an old man in the year 2092. At 118, Mr. Nobody is both the oldest man in the world and the last mortal of a new mankind where nobody dies anymore. But that doesn’t seem to interest or bother him very much. The only questions that preoccupy him in the present is whether he lived the right life for himself, loved the woman whom he was supposed to love, and had the children whom he was meant to have.

This is a much more complicated Sliding Doors. When a nine-year-old boy’s parents divorce, he must choose between staying with his father in England or moving with his mother to Canada. We see the consequences of both of his choices, as well as the results of different decisions in each of those lives. It’s difficult to keep track of how many paths we watch Nemo travel. The execution of the film is quite clever, using colour schemes and camera styles to further differentiate between his various lives. However, the constant jumping between realities and times can be somewhat difficult to follow. In addition, the references to string theory and the butterfly effect are hefty topics to reconcile with the story being told. The film really requires at least a second viewing, but at nearly two-and-a-half hours it may not be a task you’re inclined to take on right away.

Special features include: a making-of featurette; behind-the-scenes footage; and deleted scenes. (Entertainment One)

Once Upon a Time in America on Blu-rayOnce Upon a Time in America (Blu-ray)
The film is an epic tale of the lives of a small group of New York City Jewish gangsters spanning over 40 years. Told mostly in flashbacks and flash-forwards, the movie centres on small-time hood David ‘Noodles’ Aaronson (Robert De Niro), his lifelong partner in crime, Maximilian ‘Max’ Bercovicz (James Woods), and their friends, from growing up in the rough Jewish neighbourhood of New York’s Lower East Side in the 1920s to the last years of Prohibition in the early 1930s, and then to the late 1960s where an elderly Noodles returns to New York after many years in hiding to look into the past.

Special features include: commentary by critic/historian Richard Schickel; excerpt from the documentary Once Upon a Time in America: Sergio Leone, chronicling the making of the movie; and the theatrical trailer. (Warner Home Video)

Piranha on DVDPiranha (DVD)
Every year the population of sleepy Lake Victoria explodes from 5,000 to 50,000 for Spring Break, a riot of sun and drunken fun. But this year, there’s something more to worry about than hangovers and complaints from local old timers. After a sudden underwater tremor sets free scores of prehistoric man-eating fish, an unlikely group of strangers must band together to stop themselves from becoming fish food for the area’s new razor-toothed residents.

This franchise, which began in the ‘70s, has always been a lot of fun – cheesy dialogue, screaming teenagers and suddenly very bloody water. The 2010 rehash understood this completely and stayed true to its far-from-serious spirit. French director Alexandre Aja has more than once proven his skilfulness with blood, but this time he gets to use it for pure, disgusting entertainment instead of spine-chilling terror. If you can stomach it, this is an amusing, though blood-drenched, flick that will have you squirming while laughing out loud.

Special features include: commentary by director Aja and producers Gregory Levasseur and Alix Taylor; deleted scenes with optional commentary; “Don’t Scream, Just Swim,” a behind-the-scenes featurette; and deleted storyboard sequences. (Alliance Films)

Raging Bull on Blu-rayRaging Bull: 30th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)
As Jake (Robert De Niro) struggles to become the middleweight boxing champion of the world, he is obstructed by his personal demons. Though a technically brilliant fighter, his credibility as a legitimate boxer is challenged when he conspires with the mob to throw a fight in his opponent’s favor. Increasingly violent and self-destructive, Jake sours his already-tumultuous relationship with his brother and boxing manager (Joe Pesci) by accusing him of having an affair with his wife, Vickie (Cathy Moriarty). Jake’s final tragic loss in the ring makes him realize that his greatest defeat was losing the ones he loved.

Special features include: the film in high and standard definition; commentary by director Martin Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker; commentary by cast and crew; commentary by storytellers; “Marty and Bobby” featurette; “Raging Bull: Reflections on a Classic”; “Remembering Jake” featurette; “Marty on Film”; Moriarty on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, March 27, 1981; Raging Bull: Fight Night, a four-part, feature-length documentary; “The Bronx Bull,” a behind-the-scenes featurette; “De Niro vs. La Motta,” a shot-by-shot comparison in the ring; and “La Motta Defends the Title,” vintage newsreel footage.  (Fox Home Entertainment)

The Social Network on Blu-rayThe Social Network (Blu-ray)
It’s the tale of a new breed of cultural insurgent: a punk genius who sparked a revolution and changed the face of human interaction for a generation, and perhaps forever.  The film chronicles the formation of Facebook and the battles over ownership that followed upon the website’s unfathomable success.  With a complex, incisive screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and a brilliant cast including Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake, The Social Network bears witness to the birth of an idea that rewove the fabric of society even as it unraveled the friendship of its creators.

Special features include: commentary by director David Fincher; another commentary by writer Aaron Sorkin and cast Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer and Josh Pence; “How Did They Ever Make a Movie of Facebook?”, a four-part making-of documentary; “Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter and Ren Klyce on Post,” the editors and sound designer discuss how they created the different layers of the film; “Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and David Fincher on the Score”; “Jeff Cronenweth and David Fincher on the Visuals”; “Swarmatron,” a look at the sound machine used to create parts of the score; “In the Hall of the Mountain King: Music Exploration,” a multi-angle music exploration which allows viewers to watch the same scene four different ways with different layers of music; and “Ruby Skye VIP Room,” a multi-angle scene breakdown. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

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