This week’s releases include: a modern-day gladiator; an old school horror movie; a family torn apart; a cheery musical; a revenge fantasy come true; a set of tragic stories; a period drama; a comedic hunt for evil; an existential look at life; a sinister abuse of the Internet; and a talking animals picture.

Arena on DVDArena (DVD)
How do you make a fortune from the bloodlust of millions? One sadistically savvy businessman (Samuel L. Jackson) has created an empire with his brutal, fight-to-the-death gladiator website. His newest warrior is David Lord (Kellan Lutz), a kidnapped fireman, now imprisoned and forced to fight for his life. To buy his freedom, Lord agrees to do a series of lethal bouts. But as the body count escalates, and with his most challenging battle remaining, Lord unleashes a torrent of bloody carnage and reveals a secret that threatens to tear down the entire enterprise.

Special features not available. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

The Bad Seed on blu-rayThe Bad Seed (Blu-ray)
A single mother discovers that within her seemingly angelic daughter beats the heart of a cold-blooded serial murderer. One woman must make a terrible decision about the daughter she loves and desperately wants to protect in this classic thriller.

Special features not available. (Warner Home Entertainment)

Beautiful Boy on blu-rayBeautiful Boy (Blu-ray)
Maria Bello and Michael Sheen play Kate and Bill Carroll, parents who are in a rocky marriage and are hit with the shocking news that their eighteen-year-old son, Sam (Kyle Gallner), has committed a mass shooting at his college before taking his own life. Separated from the rest of the world by this incomprehensible act, they find their marital troubles gradually taking a back seat to the traumatic situation thrust upon them. We look through their eyes as they struggle to find refuge from the public and media backlash, while overcoming their own sudden loss.

Bello’s and Sheen’s performances are agonizingly real. Bello is the distraught mother who sits comfortably in the denial stage before moving on to avoidance. Sheen takes the news like a man, attempting to stay strong for his wife, handling practical matters and crying when no one is looking. His strength throughout is astounding – until he finally gives in to his grief, at which point Sheen really shines. The story unfolds very leisurely, but the pace is very appropriate. The rollercoaster of emotions is a series of highs and lows that level out only to spike with a new reminder or repercussion of Sam’s actions. The picture is also quite grainy, reflecting the raw emotions being displayed. Director Shawn Ku, who co-wrote the screenplay with Michael Armbruster, shows incredible maturity and insight into the suffering of two middle-aged parents.

Special features not available. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

Brand New Day on DVDBrand New Day (DVD)
A devout minister (Geoffrey Rush) is chasing a runaway seminary student named Willie across the land down under. As Willie tries to make it back to the girl of his dreams, he embarks on a glorious, uproarious road trip filled with music, magic and foot-stomping fun. Based on a beloved Australian musical.

Special features not available. (Alliance Films)

Horrible Bosses on blu-rayHorrible Bosses (Blu-ray)
For Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day), the only thing that would make the daily grind more tolerable would be to grind their intolerable bosses (Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston) into dust. Quitting is not an option, so, with the benefit of a few too many drinks and some dubious advice from a hustling ex-con, the three friends devise a convoluted and seemingly foolproof plan to rid themselves of their respective employers…permanently. There’s only one problem: even the best-laid plans are only as foolproof as the brains behind them.

Special features not available. (Warner Home Entertainment)

Last Exit to Brooklyn on DVDLast Exit to Brooklyn (DVD)
Taken from Hubert Selby, Jr.’s controversial novel, a gallery of characters in Brooklyn in the 1950s are crushed by their surroundings and selves: a union strike leader discovers he is gay; a prostitute falls in love with one of her clients; and a family cannot cope with the fact that their daughter is illegitimately pregnant.

Special features include: commentary by director Uli Edel; and a making-of featurette. (Entertainment One)

Master Harold and the Boys on DVDMaster Harold and the Boys (DVD)
On a rainy afternoon in his mother’s tea house, lonely 17 year-old Hally (Freddie Highmore) and Sam (Ving Rhames) and Willie (Patrick Mofokeng), two middle-aged black servants, share idyllic memories of their lifelong friendship. But when Hally learns that his invalid alcoholic father is coming home from the hospital, he unleashes his resentment and rage on Sam and Willie with devastating consequences.

There are no special features. (Entertainment One)

Todd and the Book of Pure Evil S1 on DVDTodd & the Book of Pure Evil – Season One (DVD)
A stoner metalhead named Todd Smith, his crushee Jenny, his best friend Curtis, and the geeky Hannah, search their high school for a mayhem-causing satanic spell book, while being opposed by Atticus, the evil guidance councillor.

Based on a short film of the same name, it’s often difficult to decide whether the series is genuinely funny or just stupid. The scale tips to the former, but the crass jokes continuously raise the question – especially during the first few episodes. Each episode is more or less self-contained with a new wish granted by the evil book that results in some bizarre consequence. The other constant is entertaining, secret cult meetings in which Atticus is repeatedly berated.

Special features include: cast and crew commentary on three episodes; outtakes and deleted scenes; blooper reel; “The Bowels of Hell: Extended Musical Scenes”; “Q&A with the Quixotic and Awesome Cast”; the original short film; and short promotional clips and promos for next season. (Entertainment One)

Tree of Life on DVDThe Tree of Life (DVD)
From director Terrence Malick, the impressionistic story of a Midwestern family in the 1950’s follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith. Malick’s signature imagery shows how both brute nature and spiritual grace shape not only our lives as individuals and families, but all life.

There are no special features. (Entertainment One)

Vlog on DVDVlog (DVD)
Over ten million young adults (18 – 24) watch video blogs and viral videos per month, but beyond the cat videos and loud but harmless rants, there is a dark side to watching “vlogs” (blog in video form). The video diary of a popular and sexy “vlogger,” Brooke Marks, has attracted a voyeuristic killer who eventually slays her in front of millions of people watching online.

The premise for this movie feels like the idea for a short that somehow garnered enough of a budget to extend it to a 70-minute feature. Brooke’s vlogs are commonplace and often cruel, devoid of any reason to object to her murder other than it is illegal. The three killings depicted are gory little vignettes, which (falsely) demonstrate a trio of methods that can “make someone disappear off the face of the Earth.” Finally, rather than act as a surprise, the conclusion serves as an add-on that pointlessly stretches the already limited narrative.

Special features include: bonus vlogs from Brooke Marks. (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment)

Zookeeper on blu-rayZookeeper (Blu-ray)
The animals at the Franklin Park Zoo love their kind-hearted caretaker, Griffin Keyes (Kevin James). Finding himself more comfortable with a lion than a lady, Griffin decides the only way to get a girl in his life is to leave the zoo and find a more glamorous job. The animals, in a panic, decide to break their time-honoured code of silence and reveal their biggest secret: they can talk! To keep Griffin from leaving, they decide to teach him the rules of courtship – animal style.

Special features include: “Laughing is Contagious” blooper reel; deleted scenes; “Bernie The Gorilla” featurette; “The Furry Co‑Stars” featurette; three “Creating the Visual Effects” featurettes: “Making the Animals Talk”, “Riding An Ostrich” and “Animal Meeting”; “Be The Bear” featurette; “Behind The Stunts” featurette; “The Cast of Zookeeper” featurette; a playable game demo of “Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One”; and movieIQ. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

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