This week’s releases include: gems from the first motion pictures; a father and son’s battle to be free; a new widow struggles to move forward; a man copes with the death of his father and a new relationship; a star-powered love story; a world in which monsters are real; an alien attack; a connection that transcends generations; an Errol Morris documentary; a home invasion picture; and an epic love story.

The Artists: The Best of Kino's Silent Classics Vol. 1 on DVDThe Artists: The Best of Kino’s Silent Classics Vol. 1 (DVD)
Kino, the leading independent studio distributor of Hollywood’s classic silent films, put together an amazing box set that includes some of its best selling silent films: Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) (2002 Restored Edition); Blood & Sand (1922), starring Rudolph Valentino; The Thief of Bagdad (1924), starring Douglas Fairbanks; It (1927), starring Clara Bow; Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1920), starring John Barrymore; D.W. Griffith’s Broken Blossoms (1919), starring Lilian Gish; and Buster Keaton’s The General (1926).

Special features not available. (Kino Canada)

A Better Life on blu-rayA Better Life (Blu-ray)
In East L.A., illegal immigrant and hardworking single father Carlos struggles to keep his son away from gangs and immigration agents while trying to give his son the opportunities he never had.

Special features include: commentary by director Chris Weitz; deleted scenes; and “Jardinero” music video by Ozomatli. (Entertainment One)

A Little Help on blu-rayA Little Help (Blu-ray)
Set in suburban Long Island in the summer of 2002, with the psychic wounds of 9/11 still fresh, this is a story that takes a comic, searching and profoundly empathetic look at a few pivotal months in the life of dental hygienist Laura Pehlke (Jenna Fischer) – an ordinary woman whose life suddenly flies off the rails – and her heroic efforts to re-establish a sense of security and normalcy for herself and her son.

This is an endearing little picture about the struggles of a single parent and a boy who wants very much to fit in with his peers. Fischer is given the chance to have the spotlight to herself and doesn’t waste the opportunity. Her anxious persona is ideal for the role, as she traverses overbearing family members, a lawsuit and her son’s peculiar choice of rebellion. The story is nothing special, but the performances from the cast make it work.

Special features include: actor interviews; a Jakob Dylan music video; tv spot; and trailer. (Entertainment One)

Beginners on DVDBeginners (DVD + Blu-ray combo pack)
When graphic designer Oliver (Ewan McGregor) meets free-spirited Anna (Mélanie Laurent) shortly after his father (Christopher Plummer) has passed away, Oliver realizes just how much of a beginner he is when it comes to long-lasting romantic love. Memories of his father, who, following the death of his wife of 45 years, came out of the closet at age 75 to live a full, energized, and wonderfully tumultuous gay life, encourage Oliver to open himself up to the potential of a true relationship.

Writer/director Mike Mills based this story largely on personal experience as his own widowed father announced he was gay after nearly a half century of marriage. After his death, Mills began writing the screenplay as a method of working through the event. The result is a moving picture about happiness, sadness and life’s funny way of unfolding. The story moves smoothly between the past and present as little things remind Oliver of times gone by, conjuring memories from various points in his life. As a result, we effortlessly explore adult Oliver’s relationship with his newly gay father; child Oliver’s relationship with his distinctive and frustrated mother; and his current budding relationship with Anna.

Special features include: commentary by writer/director Mike Mills; a making-of featurette; and a promo. (Alliance Films)

Crazy, Stupid, Love on blu-rayCrazy, Stupid, Love (Blu-ray)
At forty-something, straight-laced Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) is living the dream — good job, nice house, great kids and marriage to his high school sweetheart. But when Cal learns that his wife, Emily (Julianne Moore), has cheated on him and wants a divorce, his “perfect” life quickly unravels.  In today’s single world, Cal, who hasn’t dated in decades, stands out as the epitome of

un-smooth. Spending his free evenings sulking alone at a local bar, the hapless Cal is taken on as wingman and protégé to handsome lothario Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling). In an effort to help Cal get over his wife and start living his life, Jacob opens Cal’s eyes to the many options before him: flirty women, manly drinks and a sense of style that can’t be found at Supercuts or The Gap.  Meanwhile, Cal’s 13-year-old son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo), is in love with his 17-year-old babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who harbours a major crush of her own… on Cal. And even Jacob’s new-woman-every-night modus operandi is challenged when he tries his best lines on Hannah (Emma Stone), a girl he just can’t seem to get out of his mind—maybe because she’s the first woman he’s ever met who doesn’t think the professional player has any game.

Special features include: “Steve and Ryan Walk into a Bar,” in which Carell and Gosling candidly discuss their roles; “The Player Meets His Match,” in which Gosling and Stone discuss their on-screen romance; and deleted scenes. (Warner Home Entertainment)

Dylan Dog on DVDDylan Dog (DVD)
Based on one of the world’s bestselling comic book series, Dylan Dog (Brandon Routh) is the world’s only private investigator of the undead. Having left the world of the supernatural behind after the death of his wife, Dylan is pulled back into action to solve the murder of a mysterious woman’s father. Along with his zombie assistant Marcus, he finds himself drawn into the middle of a battle between the clans of vampire, werewolf and zombie for possession of a rare artifact to control both the mortal and monster world. Dylan must go where the living aren’t meant to go in order to solve the case, save mankind and keep his partner from losing any more body parts.

Reminiscent of Constantine (also based on a comic), the film approaches the world of monsters as an unknown element of everyday life. However, it lacks the dark, intellectual tone of the Keanu Reeves picture. Dylan Dog is somewhat campy, but may have been more enjoyable if they’d taken it even farther. Nonetheless, Marcus is hilarious and his scenes with Dylan are highlights amongst other scenes.

There are no special features. (Alliance Films)

High Plains Invaders on DVDHigh Plains Invaders (DVD)
A train robber, his former sweetheart, a lady bounty hunter and an eccentric mine owner try to escape a swarm of monstrous alien bugs that have landed to feed on the uranium deposits found under their Old West town.

Special features not available. (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment)

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan on blu-raySnow Flower and the Secret Fan (Blu-ray)
Growing up in 19th century China, Lily (Bingbing Li) and Snow Flower (Gianna Jun ) are brought together in a Laotong friendship — a lifelong bond between two women who rely on each other for companionship and comfort. Amid the civil unrest and gender discrimination of the era, the pair deals with life’s hardships together until they are separated by marriage and childbirth. As sworn sisters, however, the women continue to communicate through the secret Chinese language of nushu, hiding their stories and messages within the folds of delicate silk fans. In present day Shanghai, the Laotong’s descendants Nina (also played by Li) and Sophia (also played by Jun) struggle to maintain the intimacy of their own childhood friendship in the face of demanding careers and complicated love lives. Drawing on lessons of the past, the two modern women must understand the story of their ancestral connection or risk losing one another forever.

Special features include: “The Sworn Sisterhood of the Secret Fan” featurette. (Fox Home Entertainment)

Tabloid on DVDTabloid (DVD)
In the late 1970s, Miss Wyoming Joyce McKinney became a tabloid staple when she kidnapped her former beau, a Mormon missionary named Kirk Anderson, and tied him to a bed to “deprogram” his religious beliefs – by having nonstop sex with him. Oscar-winning director Errol Morris follows the salacious adventures of this beauty queen with an IQ of 168 whose single-minded devotion to the man of her dreams led her across the globe, into jail and onto the front page.

This story is so bizarre, it’s difficult to believe it’s true. However, McKinney is so forthcoming about events leading up to, during and after the incident that gained her the label “sex-in-chains woman.” It’s truly unfortunate not even a statement could be obtained from her so-called victim. The inclusion of interviews with gossip columnist provides another side of the story, though it’s easy to be biased against their words since McKinney is so charming and likeable.

There are no special features. (Entertainment One)

Trespass on blu-rayTresspass (Blu-ray)
Kyle Miller (Nicolas Cage) is a charming, eccentric diamond dealer who struggles to provide an exceptional lifestyle for his beautiful wife (Nicole Kidman) and his teenage daughter (Liana Liberato).  A seemingly straightforward home invasion evolves into something far more complicated when a husband and wife are taken hostage by a group of brutal perpetrators seeking a big score, but complications ensue amid the discovery of betrayal and deception.

Special features include: cast and crew interviews; a making-of featurette; and a behind-the-scenes featurette. (V V S Films)

Water for Elephants on blu-rayWater for Elephants (Blu-ray)
Devastated by the sudden death of his parents at the height of The Depression, a young dreamer from the wrong side of the tracks, Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson), abandons his veterinary studies at Cornell University. With no other family, no house, and no money, Jacob stows away on a train carrying the circus performers of The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.  Hired as a veterinarian to care for the troupe’s animals, Jacob is temporarily filled with the promise of an exciting life that comes with a traveling circus troupe. However, as he builds a rapport and falls in love with the star of the show, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), they become prey to the circus’s owner, Marlena’s violent and abusive husband August (Christoph Waltz). As the circus begins to crumble from within and against all odds, Jacob and Marlena come together and fall in love through their compassion for a special elephant. With their love on the line, Jacob and Marlena come to a crossroads that will forever change their destiny.

This is an exceptional love story and period piece. Pattinson displays some real acting chops, though his now well-known gloomy expression is a little disconcerting at times. The narrative is spellbinding, as is the look of the picture. The dust and dilapidated towns, as well as the rundown circus cars create an ideal environment for the evenly paced movie. The elephant is one of the film’s most impressive characters – her “acting” talent is extraordinary.

Special features include: commentary by director Francis Lawrence and writer Richard LaGraveneseo; “Robert Pattinson Spotlight”; “Feature Performer Reese Witherspoon”; “The Traveling Show: From Page to Screen”; “Working Without A Net – The Visual Effects of Water for Elephants”; “The Star Attraction”; “Raising the Tent”; “Secrets of the Big Top”; theatrical trailer; and BD-Live. (Fox Home Entertainment)

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