This week’s releases include: a courtroom period drama; a spy thriller in two different eras; another bachelor party gone wrong; a true story of fantasy and murder; a playful tale with penguins; a look at famous hockey feuds; a consequence of ‘the wrong place, the wrong time’; an adaptation of a childhood classic; a trilogy about a young woman who takes matters into her own hands; and an historical re-enactment. 

Alleged on DVDAlleged (DVD)
Charles Anderson, a talented young reporter, feels trapped working for his deceased father’s weekly newspaper and living in a tiny town (Dayton, TN) in steep decline. Seeing the “Monkey Trial” as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to break into the journalistic big leagues, Charles manages to insert himself into the middle of the “trial of the century.” Once in the midst of this staged event, however, he is torn between his love for the more principled Rose, his fiancée, and the escalating moral compromises that he is asked to make as the eager protégé of H.L. Mencken, America’s most colourful and influential columnist.

Special features not available. (Entertainment One)

The Debt on DVDThe Debt (DVD)
In 1965, Mossad agents Rachel (Jessica Chastain), David (Sam Worthington) and Stephan (Marton Csokas) were sent to Germany on an extremely important mission: to capture and return with Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen), “the Surgeon of Birkenau.” Rachel and David pose as a young couple unable to conceive, sending Rachel to a fertility specialist, who unbeknownst to his patients used to experiment on children. After an uncomfortably intimate trap is sprung, the extraction plan fails and the threesome are stuck holding Vogel at their small, leaking Berlin flat until a new plan is devised. Thirty years later, the events of those weeks still haunt the team (Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Ciarán Hinds respectively) and threaten the lives they worked so hard to build in the aftermath.

This is a cross between a thriller and a mystery that switches gears several times throughout the film. The opening act unfolds mostly in 1997, while the second act is grounded in 1965. This flashback comprises the majority of the narrative, presenting a captivating spy thriller that becomes a psychological drama. It’s rare to see an espionage film from a woman’s perspective, but this is certainly Rachel’s picture. As Rachel, Chastain appears reserved and strong, but there’s a constant sense that she’s attempting to conceal a lot of emotional turmoil. Mirren takes on yet another action role, hiding behind pillars and chasing information as the elder Rachel. Director John Madden builds an excellent layer of tension over a decently paced narrative that is thought-provoking and engaging from beginning to end.

Special features include: commentary by director John Madden and producer Kris Thykier; “A look inside The Debt”; “Every secret has a price: Helen Mirren in The Debt”; and “The Berlin Affair: the triangle at the center of The Debt.” (Alliance Films)

The Hangover Part II on blu-rayThe Hangover Part II (Blu-ray & DVD combo pack)
Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha) travel to exotic Thailand for Stu’s wedding. After the unforgettable bachelor party in Las Vegas, Stu is taking no chances and has opted for a safe, subdued pre-wedding brunch. However, things don’t always go as planned. What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in Bangkok can’t even be imagined.

Special features not available. (Warner Home Entertainment)

Heavenly Creatures on blu-rayHeavenly Creatures (Blu-ray & DVD combo pack)
When circumstances bring together two imaginative teenage schoolgirls (Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet), they quickly form an unwavering bond, creating a fantasy world that only they can share. But then their parents become disturbed by the intensity of the friendship and threaten to keep them apart. In retaliation, the girls vow to stay together, devising a secret plan that leads to shocking consequences.

It’s difficult to sympathize with these girls as they are so out of the ordinary. On the contrary, though their separation would be extraordinarily difficult, it’s their parents you feel for as they struggle to regain control. Spanning approximately two years, their relationship quickly becomes obsessive and eventually dangerous. Only a few years older than the teens they portrayed, Lynskey and Winslet deliver excellent performances. Winslet displays the carefree, warm nature we’ve seen many times since, while Lynskey is dark, erratic and admittedly mad; much like the characters they played in Titanic and Two and a Half Men, respectively. This real-life story is intriguing, particularly the peculiar fantasy sequences of clay people and murder.

There are no special features. (Alliance Films)

Mr. Popper's Penguins on blu-rayMr. Popper’s Penguins (Blu-ray & DVD combo pack)
Mr. Popper (Jim Carrey) is a driven businessman who is clueless when it comes to the important things in life – until he inherits six adorable and mischievous penguins. As Popper quickly gets acquainted with – and increasingly attached to – his winged roommates, his life quickly unravels: the deal he’s long been working on with a formidable socialite, Mrs. Van Gundy (Angela Lansbury), is derailed and Popper almost lands in jail.  While Popper’s penguins turn his swank New York apartment into a snowy winter wonderland, they teach him valuable lessons about family – human and otherwise.

This film is the triumphant return of the physically amusing, purely funny Carrey who captured our hearts and attention in Liar, Liar. And his adorable co-stars, six gentoo penguins, appear clever and mischievous without adapting too many human qualities. Suspending your beliefs is a necessity to enjoy the story, but it’s such fun to just slide down the ice shoot that you’ll probably even forget to question the indoor winter wonderland. The inevitable ‘sad moment’ seems a bit harsh for a family picture, but it could spark some interesting conversation.

Special features include: commentary; animated short: “Nimrod and Stinky’s Antarctic Adventure”; “The Legacy of Mr. Popper’s Penguins”; “Ladies and Gentoomen”; “Ready for their Closeup”; “Stuffy Penguin Theater”; “Penguin Pandemonium”; original story sampler; gag reel; and theatrical trailer. (Fox Home Entertainment)

NHL Top 10 Rivalries on DVDNHL Top 10 Rivalries (DVD)
Rivalries in the National Hockey League transcend the games on the ice. They’re institutions. Showdowns between historic enemies breed both mutual respect and hostility – no matter where the clubs sit in the standings. NHL Top 10 Rivalries presents an in-depth look into the league’s fiercest feuds. Current and former players, coaches and NHL historians relive memories and go behind-the-scenes both on and off the ice of some of the game’s unforgettable match-ups. The Rangers and the Islanders, The Battle of Alberta, The Canadiens and Bruins, The Battle of Quebec, The Battle of Pennsylvania – plus many more are examined and ranked.

Special features not available. (Warner Home Entertainment)

Point Blank on blu-rayPoint Blank (Blu-ray)
Everything is going well for Samuel (Gilles Lellouche) and his beautiful wife Nadia (Elena Anaya). But everything changes when Nadia is kidnapped right in front of Samuel, who is knocked out cold, trying to stop the kidnapper. When he comes to, his phone is ringing; he has just three hours to get Startet (Roschdy Zem), a man who is under police surveillance, out of the hospital in which Samuel works. His destiny now lies in the hands of a man who is wanted by the police. But if he wants to see his wife again, he must act fast.

Beginning with a high stakes pursuit, this film promises action from the start and it delivers. The orderly does no more than you’d expect an average, desperate man to be able to do, leaving the more serious devising and violence to the actual criminals. It’s not too difficult to predict who the players are, though it does still manage some surprises throughout. The intensity the narrative maintains from the opening to close is impressive and exhilarating, using the race against the clock structure to keep up the tempo and urgency. The epilogue seems unnecessary, but it does provide a secondary, satisfactory conclusion.

There are no special features. (Entertainment One)

The Smurfs on blu-rayThe Smurfs (Blu-ray 3D & DVD combo pack)
When the evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) chases the tiny blue Smurfs out of their village, they tumble from their magical world into ours – in fact, smack dab in the middle of Central Park. Just three apples high and stuck in the Big Apple, the Smurfs must find a way to get back to their village before Gargamel tracks them down.

It was difficult to gauge how the little blue creatures would fare in their transfer from the small screen to the silver one, or from their village to New York City. Thankfully the trip isn’t a complete disaster, owing no small part to the human characters. Smurfette’s first chance at female bonding with Jayma Mays is sweet, while Neil Patrick Harris’ frustration with the rest of the Smurfs is amusing. However, neither top Azaria’s hilarious turn as Gargamel and his shtick with the cat who doubles as a guinea pig. It definitely could have been worse, but now they have a sequel in which to screw it all up.

Special features include: 3D and 2D versions of the film; two commentaries; “Blue-pers”; deleted and extended scenes; “Going Gargamel”; “Smurf speak: Meet the cast”; “Progression reels”; “Happy music montage”; “The Smurfs: comic book to the big screen”; The Smurfs Fantastic Adventure Game; and Find The Smurfsgame. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo Trilogy Extended Edition on blu-rayStieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo Trilogy Extended Edition (Blu-ray)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Facing prison time for slander, discredited journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is hired by a reclusive industrialist for one last job; to solve a long unresolved family disappearance. Aided by the mysterious and troubled computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), the two uncover a darker world of brutality, deception and ritualistic murder. Alone and not knowing who to trust, they must fight for their own survival and reveal the truth.
The Girl who Played with Fire: Mikael Blomkvist is about to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation between Eastern Europe and Sweden, implicating well-known and highly placed members of Swedish society. On the eve of publication, the two investigating reporters are murdered and the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to Lisbeth Salander.
The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest: Under police guard in hospital, Lisbeth Salander  is charged with murder and awaits the trial that has the country gripped. Cut off from all communication with the outside world, she must rely on journalist and former lover, Mikael Blomkvist to prove her innocence and expose the political cover up that threatens to destroy her freedom. In his way stands a mysterious group who will go to any lengths to keep the shocking truth of their actions a secret.

The story of Lisbeth Salander, based on the series of books by Stieg Larsson, is very compelling. The first film provides a blunt introduction to her character as she is assaulted a number of times, but proves mentally stronger than her attackers in every instance. The second film reveals more about Lisbeth’s life as she comes closer to discovering her origins. In the final film, all of the injustices that came to light in the previous film are brought to the forefront and the depth of the conspiracy against Lisbeth is revealed.

One of the great elements of these films is the return of all actors for each instalment. Rapace is consistently astounding. Her ability to convey so much emotion through one meaningful smile is remarkable. And Nyqvist’s intensity never waivers as his character demands the truth at any cost, regardless of the risk.

Special features include: interviews with Rapace, Nyqvist and producer Soren Staermose; the Vanger family tree; “Nidermann vs Roberto: Behind the Fight Scene”; photo gallery; and theatrical trailers. (Alliance Films)

Tora Tora Tora on blu-rayTora! Tora! Tora! (Blu-ray)
Tora! Tora! Tora! Is the code that advised Japanese Imperial Navy commanders that the devastating December 7, 1941 attack on Hawaii commenced with utter surprise and without resistance. Torpedo bombers, dive bombers and fighter planes swept down upon Pearl Harbor and other military targets, killing more than 2,400 and wounding more than 1,200. More than a dozen ships were damaged or destroyed. This docudrama is a meticulously researched and painstakingly authentic re-enactment of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Special features include: commentary by director Richard Fleischer and Japanese film historian Stuart Galbraith IV; “Day of Infamy” documentary; “History vs. Hollywood – Tora! Tora! Tora!: A Giant Awakes”; “AMC Backstory: Tora! Tora! Tora!”; behind-the-scenes gallery; production gallery; 10 Fox MOVIETONEWS segments; and original theatrical trailer. (Fox Home Entertainment)

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