This week’s releases include: the funny side of the insurance business; a sci-fi picture about carnivorous plants; an adolescent comedy; a Roman epic; the tale of a transitioning porn actress; a French period drama; a Japanese anime series; a romantic comedy; a short-lived Canadian television show; and an international thriller starring a newly established action star.

Cedar Rapids on DVDCedar Rapids (DVD)
Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) was the guy people always thought would go places but then he just didn’t. He’s been living in the extremely quiet Brown Valley, Wisconsin his whole life, still “pre-engaged” to his 7th grade teacher Macy Vanderhei (Sigourney Weaver), while selling insurance to protect other people’s dreams. But now Tim’s stalled life is about to get a kick-start because for the first time in his 34 years, he’s headed to a “major” metropolis – Cedar Rapids, Iowa – where he must try to save his company at a do-or-die insurance convention that, for him, will be entirely unconventional. From the minute he checks into his hotel, it’s clear Tim has no idea how the modern world really works. He is soon smitten with seductive Nebraskan insurance agent Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche) and awed by his experienced roommates, the straight-shooting Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and the suspicious Dean Zeigler (John C. Reilly).

Based on the trailer, I’d initially expected something similar to The Hangover. But it actually has very little in common with that drunken escapade. Tim is a straight arrow who becomes a little lost when the evils of the world throw him for a loop. His alcohol-induced shenanigans are only a small part of the story; the rest is a thoughtful comedy about friendship and doing what’s right. It’s also an enjoyable, non-raunchy look at what goes on at an industry conference. Helms is perfect for the role of Tim, while Riley turns in an often subtle but convincing performance as the wild man, which was a nice twist on a  character-type he’s portrayed in other pictures.

Special features include: deleted scenes; “Mike O’Malley – Urban Clogger”; “Tweaking in the USA”; “Wedding Belles – Crashing a Lesbian Wedding”; gag reel; Top Notch commercial; and theatrical trailer. (Fox Home Entertainment)

The Day of the Triffids on DVDThe Day of the Triffids (DVD)
Based on the novel by the same name and written by John Wyndham it follows the story of Dr. Bill Mason (Dougray Scott) who is trying to prevent a disaster of massive proportion after man-eating plants that were used for alternative fuel purposes are released to roam all over United Kingdom.

At three hours, the movie plays out like a two-part TV miniseries. However, it has good production value with adequate CGI and star power that includes Eddie Izzard, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox and Jason Priestley. The story is a cross between Blindness, 28 Days Later and a B-movie monster flick. The narrative is an interesting exploration of the social collapse that occurs during mass chaos. There are some lulls, which is expected because of its length, but overall it’s a solid picture.

Special features include: a making-of featurette. (Entertainment One)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Rodrick Rules on DVDDiary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (DVD)
Just back from summer vacation, Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) and his friend Rowley (Robert Capron) enter the next grade as undersized weaklings in their school. A bully favourite, Greg tries not to get noticed by anyone except the pretty new girl, Holly Hills (Peyton List). And at home, Greg is still at war with his older brother, Rodrick (Devon Bostick), until their mom Susan (Rachael Harris) instigates a ‘Mom Bucks’ program so Greg and Rodrick can earn play money by doing chores and—gasp!—being nice to each other. Calamity ensues when their parents return from vacation and dad Frank (Steve Zahn) finds evidence that Rodrick secretly threw a house party with his band, Löded Diper. As they struggle with school and compete for ‘Mom Bucks,’ the brothers discover that avoiding trouble is easier if they unite.

Special features include: commentary by director David Bowers and author Jeff Kinney; and the theatrical trailer. (Fox Home Entertainment)

The Eagle on DVDThe Eagle (DVD)
In 140 AD, 20 years after the unexplained disappearance of the entire Ninth Legion in the mountains of Scotland, young centurion Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) arrives from Rome to solve the mystery and restore the reputation of his father, the commander of the Ninth. Accompanied only by his British slave Esca (Jamie Bell), Marcus sets out across Hadrian’s Wall into the uncharted highlands of Caledonia to confront its savage tribes, make peace with his father’s memory, and retrieve the lost legion’s golden emblem – the Eagle of the Ninth.

The narrative presents a very strong beginning and a solid conclusion, but the middle is somewhat weak at times. The soldiering in the opening act is impressive, displaying irrational bravery in the face of daunting enemies. What follows is a fair amount of drama and a lot of chatter, which leads to a journey through treacherous terrain. Tatum can appear a little robotic at times, but also shows moments of clear emotion that hints at his potential as an actor and action hero. Bell’s polar performance is excellent, alternating from quiet, loyal servant to oppressive master seamlessly.

Special features include: commentary by director Kevin Macdonald; an alternate ending; deleted scenes; and a making-of featurette. (Alliance Films)

Elektra Luxx on DVDElektra Luxx (DVD)
What’s a pregnant porn goddess to do? Well, if you’re legendary adult film star Elektra Luxx (Carla Gugino), you decide to quit the industry, take a job as a “sexology” instructor at the community college and look forward to your new life with your baby. Except that may not happen quite yet – not until she wrestles with a solicitous bride-to-be, an obsessed web streamer, a studly private investigator, a clothing-challenged neighbour, a criminal twin sister and even the Virgin Mary.

Special features include: deleted scenes. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Funkytown on blu-rayFunkytown (Blu-ray)
1976. Montreal. Eight people who wanted to see and be seen at the trendiest disco will be juggling fame and anonymity until they will be forced to make sober choices in an era when excess was the norm, and when disco was king.

Special features include: a making-of featurette; interviews; and trailers. (Maple Pictures)

Ghost in the Shell: Laughing Man on blu-rayGhost in the Shell: Laughing Man (Blu-ray)
New information is revealed to Japan’s top homeland security force, drawing Major Kusanagi and Section 9 into the hunt for a suspect capable of hacking the eyes of every operative, obscuring all details of his appearance and leaving behind a trail of copycats and hacked cyborg citizens.

Special features include: “Tachikomatic Days” and Stand Alone Complex archive. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

Ghost in the Shell: Individual Eleven on blu-rayGhost in the Shell: Individual Eleven (Blu-ray)
The year is 2030 and an influx of refugees has effortlessly transformed themselves into a terrorist organization known as the “Individual Eleven.” With a sadistic intent of mass destruction, will they triumph in victory or discover the gloomy pitfalls of defeat?

Special features include: “Tachikomatic Days” and 2nd Gig Individual Eleven archive. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society on blu-rayGhost in the Shell: Solid State Society (Blu-ray)
Public Security Section 9 investigates the hacker and discovers a complex conspiracy involving a crippled senior citizen program, a zealous right-wing politician, and a corrupt civil service bureaucracy.

Special features include: “Uchikomatic Days”; “World Work File”; “Anime + Car Design – Designing the Future Car”; “Making of Tachikoma Robot”; English production interview and Mitsuhisa Ishikawa (Production I.G) interview. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

happythankyoumoreplease on blu-rayhappythankyoumoreplease (Blu-ray)
On his way to meeting his publisher, aspiring novelist Sam Wexler (Josh Radnor) meets Rasheen, a young boy separated from his family on the subway. When Rasheen refuses to be left alone with social services, Sam learns the boy has already been in six previous homes and impulsively agrees to let the boy stay with him for a couple days. Dropped into Sam’s chaotic, bachelor lifestyle, Rasheen is introduced to Sam’s circle of friends: Annie (Malin Akerman) who has a habit of dating the wrong men, but finds a promising new suitor (Toney Hale), Mary-Catherine (Zoe Kazan) and Charlie (Pablo Schreiber) whose potential move to Los Angeles threatens their relationship, and Mississippi (Kate Mara), an ambitious singer/waitress who tests Sam’s fear of commitment.

This film is trying to do a little too much. Between the child kidnapping, the budding romance, the struggling relationship and the woman who can’t get a handle on her romantic life – none of which really have any connection save for the fact they know each other – one doesn’t have the time to really invest in any of the characters. There’s potential for each story, but it’s impossible to realize in such a compressed narrative.

Special features include: commentary by producer/writer/director/actor Josh Radnor and producer Jesse Hara; “happythankyoumoremusicplease – featuring Jaymay”; and deleted scenes. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

John Woo's Once a Thief on DVDJohn Woo’s Once a Thief – the Complete Series (DVD)
Mac Ramsey (Ivan Sergei) and Li Ann Tsei (Sandine Holt) are lovers and professional thieves who are separated while fleeing the powerful Hong Kong underworld crime lord (Robert Ito) who raised and trained them. After being imprisoned in Hong Kong, Mac is recruited into an international crime-fighting unit by a hard-nosed, menacing Director (Jennifer Dale). There he is teamed with Li Ann, who had believed he was dead, and her new fiancé Victor Mansfield (Nicholas Lea), and assigned to an investigation surrounding illicit business transactions. When the mastermind behind the crooked plot is revealed, a spectacular showdown of brilliant special effects and violence ensues.

The thing about this show that makes it fun to watch is the chemistry between the three main actors and the playful antagonism of the agency’s director. Their banter is amusing and believable. Moreover, each episode consists of a case to solve with a peculiar criminal and provides plenty of opportunity for the trio to tease and screw with each other. The dialogue is funny, the action sequences are decent for a Canadian television show and there’s plenty to recognize since it was shot all over Toronto. The series’ finale provided closure and was fitting, despite its surprising conclusion.

There are no special features. (Alliance Films)

Unknown on blu-rayUnknown (Blu-ray and DVD combo pack)
Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson), who awakens after a car accident in Berlin to discover his wife (January Jones) suddenly doesn’t recognize him and another man (Aidan Quinn) has assumed his identity. Ignored by disbelieving authorities and hunted by mysterious assassins, he finds himself alone, tired and on the run. Aided by an unlikely ally (Diane Kruger), Harris plunges into a deadly mystery forcing him to question his sanity, his identity and just how far he’s willing to go to uncover the truth.

Special features include: “Liam Neeson: Known action hero,” which shows how the star established his action star status; “Unknown: What is known?” investigates the character and plot of this thriller; and a digital copy of the film. (Warner Home Entertainment)

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