This week’s releases include: an alternative to The Hunger Games; a cloud of mutated insects; a parental dispute; a narrative art film; a hasty remake; a return of old friends; and a disastrous night on the job.

Battle Royale: The Complete Collection on Blu-rayBattle Royale: The Complete Collection (Blu-ray)
In the near future, the economy has collapsed, unemployment has soared and juvenile crime has exploded. Fearful of their nation’s youth, the Japanese government passes The BR Law: Each year, a 9th grade class is sent to a remote island where they will be locked into exploding neck collars, given a random weapon, and forced to hunt and kill each other until there is only one survivor left. Battle Royale, the director’s and theatrical cut, and the sequel are available for the first time ever in North America.

Special features include: a making-of featurette; press conference; “Instructional video: Birthday version”; audition and rehearsal footage; special effects comparison; Tokyo International Film Festival 2000; Battle Royale documentary; basketball scene rehearsals; behind-the-scenes featurette; “Filming on-set”; theatrical trailer and TV spots. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

Black Swarm on DVDBlack Swarm (DVD)
When an idyllic town suffers from a spate of deadly wasp attacks, the town’s pest control expert and his estranged lover must figure out why the wasps have become murderous killers. As well as why the town residents are turning into killer drone zombies.

Robert Englund has unabashedly admitted to featuring in almost every movie that comes across his desk, no matter how bad it might be. This film is proof of this statement. The concept is nonsensical and the pustule stings are disgusting. On the other hand, this is exactly the type of gory B-movie we’ve come to expect from him. Unfortunately, it lacks the terror of Arachnophobia or the humour of Eight Legged Freaks. A similar sting-to-drone threat was confronted in the second season of the TV series Warehouse 13, but it worked far better.

There are no special features. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

Carnage on Blu-rayCarnage (Blu-ray)
After two boys duke it out on a playground, the “victim’s” parents, liberal writer Penelope Longstreet and her wholesaler husband, Michael (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly), invite the “bully’s” parents, power couple Nancy and Alan Cowan (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz), over to work out their issues. A polite discussion of childrearing soon escalates into verbal warfare, with all four parents revealing their true colors. None of them will escape the carnage.

Special features include: “Actors’ Notes – A Look at the Making of the Film”; An Evening with John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz; and “On the Red Carpet.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Dead Man on Blu-rayDead Man (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
A young man in search of a fresh start, William Blake (Johnny Depp), embarks on an exciting journey to a new town never realizing the danger that lies ahead. But when a heated love triangle ends in double murder, Blake finds himself a wanted man, running scared – until a mysterious loner teaches him to face the dangers that follow a “dead man.”

Depp has often gravitated to quirky creators in his career. It’s one of the many reasons he’s had the pleasure of working with the “King of Filth” John Waters, has collaborated for decades on numerous projects with Tim Burton, and was close friends with writer and Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. Following this pattern, it’s not surprising he’s also partnered with director Jim Jarmusch. The William Blake character he portrays is often puzzling, spending part of the movie unaware he’s a poet before turning into a cold-blooded killer. This foray into the Wild West is far from traditional, magnifying some of the stereotypes and playing with the notion of a gunslinger. Most of the actors are recognizable to some degree under their disguises, but often by voice before facial recognition, including Gabriel Byrne, Billy Bob Thornton, Jared Harris and Crispin Glover.

Special features include: deleted scenes and a music video. (Alliance Films)

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 2011 on Blu-rayThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) (Blu-ray)
Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) has lost a libel suit and is resigning as co-owner of his magazine, Millennium. In the interim, he takes on the investigation of a 40-year-old disappearance case on behalf of the wealthy Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) of Vanger Industries. With the help of the pierced, tattooed and capable computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), they uncover corruption that no one could have ever imagined.

Director David Fincher’s attraction to the material isn’t surprising, but a remake of such an acclaimed, recent picture still seems unnecessary. Nonetheless, the film is well-done and just different enough to make an individual mark. There are two elements that become increasingly clear while watching the film: it features disturbingly graphic violence and it’s akin to a pulp story. The pulp aspect comes from the heavily detailed mystery that occupies the majority of the narrative. It’s impossible not to compare Mara’s performance to Noomi Rapace’s portrayal of Lisbeth. Nonetheless, Mara makes her own mark on the character, giving her a unique mix of vulnerability and aggression.

Special features include: commentary by director David Fincher; “Men Who Hate Women”; Characters: Lisbeth Salander, Mikael Blomkvist and Martin Vanger; On Location: Sweden and Hollywood; Post Production: “In The Cutting Room,” “ADR,” “Main Titles (Multi-Angle) with commentary by Tim Miller of BLUR Studio,” and “Visual Effects Montage”; and Promotion: theatrical trailers, TV spots, one sheet and “Hard Copy – commentary with director David Prior.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

The Muppets on Blu-rayThe Muppets (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
On vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, his brother Gary (Jason Segel) and Gary’s girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams), from Smalltown, USA, discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to raze Muppet Studios and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets’ former stomping grounds. To stage a telethon and raise the $10 million needed to save the studio, Walter, Mary and Gary help Kermit reunite the Muppets, who have all gone their separate ways: Fozzie now performs with a Reno casino tribute band called the Moopets, Miss Piggy is a plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris, Animal is in a Santa Barbara clinic for anger management, and Gonzo is a high-powered plumbing magnate.

Though I wouldn’t say it’s absolutely necessary, I think familiarity with the Muppets is somewhat of a prerequisite for truly enjoying the movie – at least for the first half of the picture. The second half, on the other hand, which actually revolves around producing The Muppets Show, is when the film really takes off and most of the humour at this point becomes independent. Characters randomly burst into song, work through their feelings lyrically and complete tasks to music. Though after the first number, you wouldn’t want them to do it any other way. The witty self-referencing pulls you into their world by bringing you in on the joke and making you feel like you belong.

Special features include: eight deleted scenes; commentary by Jason Segel, James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller ; “The Longest Blooper Reel Ever Made (In Muppet History––We Think)”; “Disney Intermission” – pausing a movie will never be this much fun, as the Muppets take over the screen every time you stop the disc; “Scratching the Surface: A Hasty Examination of the Making of Disney’s The Muppets”; “Explaining Evil: The Full Tex Richman Song”; “A Little Screen Test on the way to the Read Through”; theatrical spoof trailers; the complete soundtrack; and digital copy of the film. (Disney Home Entertainment)

The Sitter on Blu-rayThe Sitter (Blu-ray)
When Noah (Jonah Hill), the suburban slacker, is watching the neighbour’s kids he gets a booty call from his girlfriend in the city. To hook up with her, Noah takes to the streets, but his urban adventure spins out of control as he finds himself on the run from the maniacal drug lord (Sam Rockwell).

The movie Adventures in Babysitting is somewhat of an ’80s classic. A young Elisabeth Shue took her charges into the city, getting mixed up in all sorts of trouble. The Sitter is the updated version of that tale and Hill plays her male counterpart. If you enjoyed the original film, you’ll likely enjoy this one as well. The children are more troublesome, particularly the toilet bomber, and the journey more dangerous, which results in more laughs and ridiculous consequences. From drug dealers to a gang of bodybuilders to absent fathers, they encounter a variety of bad men but manage to come out on top with only a few bumps and bruises – and a new found respect for the former loser. There are also touching moments of growth for everyone, though they stay true to their characters.

Special features include: unrated version of the film; deleted and extended scenes; “Totally Irresponsible” outtakes; “For Your Consideration” with Blythe featurette; “The Making of The Sitter” featurette; “Jonah the Producer” featurette; and gag reel. (Fox Home Entertainment)

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