This week’s releases include: an all-star voice cast for a second squeak-quel; giant, carnivorous spiders; a romantic classic; a biopic of an ancient teacher; a famous but underrated director is given his due; a boy’s quest for closure; and a wrestling tournament for the ages.

Alvin and the Chipmunks - Chipwrecked on Blu-rayAlvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (Blu-ray)
The Chipmunks, Chipettes and their caretaker Dave Sevelle (Jason Lee) embark on a trip of a lifetime aboard the Carnival Dream cruise ship. Seeking fun and excitement, the Chipmunks turn the luxury cruise liner into their own personal playground. But the ultimate vacation quickly becomes a disaster when the Chipmunks, Dave and the Carnival cruise pelican mascot, who turns out to be the chipmunks’ old manager, Ian Hawke (David Cross), accidentally fall overboard and find themselves ‘Chipwrecked’ on a remote island. Stuck in an unfamiliar territory, the six furry castaways are separated from Dave and must figure out a way to survive on their own for the first time in their lives.

Special features include: extended scenes; “Munk Music & Dance Machine”; “Going Overboard with The Chipmunks”; “Munking Movies in Paradise”; “Everybody Munk Now!”; “Alan Tudyk, Chipmunk Appearance”; three music videos / sing-a-longs; Fox Music Channel presents “Growing up Alvin” and ”In Character with Jason Lee”; promotional fun featurettes; and “Chipwrecked: Coloring with Chipmunks App.” (Fox Home Entertainment)

Camel Spiders on Blu-rayCamel Spiders (Blu-ray)
During a routine desert patrol, an U.S. Military unit headed by Captain Sturges (Brian Krause) is ambushed by insurgents. Just when they seemed to be outgunned, the attack suddenly stops and their would-be assassins are dragged off by what a native liaison calls “the devils of the sand.” Wounded in the battle, Sturges earns a ticket back home to the more hospitable deserts of the Southwestern United States. Bringing back one of his fallen comrades, Sturges doesn’t realize that a couple of camel spiders stowed away and now have access to an environment where they can freely hunt for prey, unafraid of any predator – including man.

Apparently the Middle East also secretly harbours large, man-eating spiders, which reproduce at an impossible rate. Just a few stowaways multiply into dozens and then hundreds within a matter of days. Yet nobody thinks to step on or crush the little ones, and a ragtag group wielding machine guns can only seem to hit one arachnid in a mass of 20 clustered targets. The unarmed students are almost more adept at surviving, though luck is not on their side. Outside of the spiders’ ability to mimic a face hugger and quickly subdue its prey, it lacks a disturbing (or funny) sound. The humans continue to do stupid things that place them in vulnerable positions, but the spiders’ mode of attack never really changes. A little more imagination and/or risk-taking, and this could have been an amusing bug movie.

There are no special features. ( Anchor Bay Entertainment)

Casablanca - 70th Anniversary Edition on Blu-rayCasablanca – 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray)
Casablanca: easy to enter, but much harder to leave; especially if you’re wanted by the Nazis. Such a man is Resistance leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), whose only hope is Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), a cynical American who sticks his neck out for no one – especially Victor’s wife Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), the ex-lover who broke his heart. Ilsa offers herself in exchange for Laszlo’s transport out of the country and bitter Rick must decide what counts more – personal happiness or countless lives hanging in the balance.

Often imitated, never duplicated, Casablanca is one of the most enduring films ever made. A complicated love story portrayed by two great actors, even if key moments are not stored in your memory the impression they make will not fade quickly. Bogart is brilliant as the sullen but secretly passionate bar owner, while Bacall plays a different sort of femme fatale (because her reappearance in Rick’s life is enough to break him). The sets are basic but true, allowing the audience’s full attention to be directed to the narrative and its characters.

Special features include: commentary by Roger Ebert; commentary by Rudy Behlmer; introduction by Lauren Bacall; deleted scenes; two new documentaries: Michael Curtiz: The Greatest Director You Never Heard Of and Casablanca: An Unlikely Classic; three feature length documentaries: You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story [2008 Documentary], The Brothers Warner [2008 Documentary] and Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul [1993 Documentary]; Now Voyager theatrical trailer-Warner Night at the Movies; Newsreel-Warner Night at the Movies; Vaudeville Days – Warner Night at the Movies; The Bird Came C.O.D.-Warner Night at the Movies; The Squawkin’ Hawk -Warner Night at the Movies; The Dover Boys at Pimento University or The Rivals of Roquefort Hall; Great Performances: Bacall on Bogart; You Must Remember This: A Tribute to Casablanca; As Time Goes By: The Children Remember; outtakes; Who Holds Tomorrow?; Carrotblanca – vintage cartoon; scoring stage sessions; 4/26/43 Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater radio broadcast; 11/19/47 Vox Pop radio broadcast; 60-page production art book with never-before-seen photos, personal memos and archival documents about the production; reproduction of the original 1942 film poster; a set of four collectible drink coasters from “Rick’s Café Americain” in a special keepsake box; and limited numbered Blu-ray and DVDs with new 4K feature scan. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group)

There are so many special features that no matter how often you’ve seen it, this 70th Anniversary (Limited and Numbered) Edition looks like yet another beginning of a beautiful friendship with an unforgettable classic. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group)

Confucious on Blu-rayConfucius (Blu-ray &DVD combo pack)
In this sweeping battlefield epic, Confucius (Chow Yun-fat) finds his lands threatened by the fires of war. After leading the nation’s most powerful army to victory against hordes of invaders, the new hero finds even greater danger in the jealous eyes of the aristocrats he fought to protect.

Many have heard of the philosopher and may even know quotes from his proverbs, but far fewer probably know of how Confucius went from being a man of war to one of words. Yun-fat is magnificently understated in most scenes, bringing an underlying sense of thought to all his scenes. He’s also very passionate about his beliefs. The sweeping landscapes (captured by Oscar-winning director of photography Peter Pau) and authentic costuming add another element of fascination to the historical tale, which captivatingly encompasses how one man acquired such inspirational wisdom.

Special features include: a making-of featurette; and the original trailer. (Entertainment One)

Corman's World on Blu-rayCorman’s World (Blu-ray)
Roger Corman is perhaps the most prolific and influential Hollywood filmmaker in the history of the medium. His immeasurable imprint on American cinema not only spans over six decades, but has resulted in creating an indelible cinematic body of work as well as a legacy of training the next generation of actors, writers, directors and producers – many of whom have created cinema masterpieces of their own.

Corman is primarily associated with the low budget monster picture, such as It Conquered the World, The Wasp Woman and The Little Shop of Horrors. But he also played an integral role in starting the careers of acclaimed directors, such as Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, John Sayles and Ron Howard, as well as award-winning actors Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda and Robert De Niro – all of whom share their stories of working with Corman with the filmmakers. The one thing everyone agrees on is the director was willing to give anyone with any promise of talent a shot – then it was up to them to sink or swim. These opportunities opened doors for films such as Boxcar Bertha, Easy Rider and Rock ‘n’ Roll High School. Corman is a fount of information, able to recount details about any of his films; and everyone who reminisces about their time with him remembers him fondly – Nicholson even tears up at one point.

Special features include: interviews; special video messages to Corman; and the theatrical trailer. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close on Blu-rayExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Blu-ray)
Eleven-year-old Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) is an exceptional child: amateur inventor, Francophile, pacifist. And after finding a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11, he embarks on an exceptional journey — an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York. As Oskar roams the city, he encounters a motley assortment of humanity, who are all survivors in their own ways. Ultimately, Oskar’s journey ends where it began, but with the solace of that most human experience: love.

Special features include: a making-of featurette; “Finding Oskar”; and “Ten Years Later.” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group)

Monster Brawl on Blu-rayMonster Brawl (Blu-ray)
Set in the tradition of a Pay-Per-View main event, Monster Brawl showcases a grotesque and humorous fight to the death between eight classic combatants. Along with their colourful managers, the monsters face off in the ring for a blood soaked battle to determine the most powerful monster of all time. Iconic wrestling manager Jimmy Hart – “The Mouth of the South,” WWE superstar Kevin Nash, and revered MMA referee Herb Dean all weigh in to flesh out the cast.

Like a video game, the picture focuses primarily on the fights versus any character or story development. That said, the casting of former WWE wrestlers and the incorporation of classic moves are in themselves entertaining. The inclusion of fighter bios followed by some smack talk for the camera was also a nice touch. Nonetheless, the most enjoyable element of the film is the ringside commentary provided by Canadian icons Dave Foley and Art Hindle (Buzz and Sasquatch respectively). They’re the typical over-the-top broadcasters, with colourful dialogue and countless puns. Though the matches are somewhat anti-climactic, with various resurrections causing some of the battles to overextend.

Special features include: commentary by director Jesse Thomas Cook, and producers Matt Wiele and John Geddes; behind-the-scenes featurette; “Tales from the Hart: Jimmy Hart Outtakes”; and the trailer. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

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