Welcome back to This Week In Discs!

As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it.

Discs Section: Pick of the Week

Sound of My Voice

A filmmaking couple infiltrate a cult in search of the truth regarding its enigmatic leader Maggie (Brit Marling), but the longer they stay the more one of them comes to believe her claims. The situation grows more dangerous when Maggie makes a spectacular claim and asks one of them to kidnap a specific young girl. Marling co-wrote the film with director Zal Batmanglij, and they’ve created a thought provoking, suspenseful and often surprising indie that feels bigger than it is by virtue of the ideas at play. Marling also delivers a spectacularly charismatic performance that just may have viewers lining up for a sip of her Kool-Aid.

Discs Section: Buy

Cinderella – Diamond Edition

Pitch: Bippidy boppidy boo, it’s time to buy the Blu…

Why Buy? In just one of the numerous new features presented on Disney’s Diamond Edition of the glass slipper saga, the story of Mary Alice O’Connor, wife of Disney animator Kevin O’Connor, is revealed. You see, she was the inspiration for the fairy godmother character and all her vivacious mannerisms. It’s just one little nugget present in a gold mine of extras. Beyond all of the film nerd stuff happening (watching some of these old featurettes about the Disney animators is delightful), there’s also a timeless, vibrant and gorgeous movie included in this set. Like many of the previous Diamond Blu-ray releases, the color has been tuned to perfection in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio presentation. The source from which the movie is taken is immaculate and the transfer is beautiful. She may be 62-years old, but Cinderelli’s still got all the moves. This is one to buy and keep for the future generations. - Neil Miller

Happy Endings: The Complete Second Season

Pitch: A funnier Friends and not a single unfunny loser in the bunch (I’m looking at you Monica)…

Why Buy? The ongoing adventures of five wacky, fun-loving friends in Chicago enters and completes a second season that doesn’t lose even a bit of the charm and laugh out loud comedy of the first. Ensemble comedies invariably feature at least one member that can’t quite keep up with the others when it comes to delivering the funny goods, but not this one. All five are consistently hilarious with special mention going to Elisha Cuthbert who shines as the slightly ditzy and consistently hungry Alex. [Extras: Deleted scenes, outtakes]

New Girl: The Complete First Season

Pitch: Siri, why don’t my glasses have lenses…

Why Buy? Jess (Zooey Deschanel) didn’t plan on living with these three guys for long, but their developing friendships trump any plans they may have had. Nick (Jake Johnson) is the Sam to her Diane, Schmidt (Max Greenfield) is the pure comic relief (an impressive feat with this cast) and Winston (Lamorne Morris) has learned to hold his own. This show could have easily gone the annoying route with Deschanel, but it consistently manages to keep her funny and endearing instead. The teased romance between Jess and Nick poses an eventual danger, but for now the show delivers the comedic goods. [Extras: Commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, gag reel]

Pet Sematary

Pitch: Sometimes, Blu is bettah…

Why Buy? The Creed family moves into their new home unaware of the Indian burial ground in the woods behind their house, but they learn soon enough when the family cat is buried back there only to return to life angrier and cattier than ever before. And then their son Gage dies, and the shit really starts to hit the fan. Mary Lambert’s film remains one of the best Stephen King adaptations thanks to a strong story, great practical effects and a palpable emotional undercurrent. King wrote the screenplay and has a cameo as a preacher, and he succeeds at the former far better than he does the latter. Did he not watch himself in Creepshow? [Extras: Commentary, featurettes]

Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection

Pitch: All the black and white scares your living room will ever need…

Why Buy? As they’ve been doing all year, Universal once again impresses with some re-release action. Celebrating their 100th birthday with a few catalogue releases is one thing, but delivering them in such a crisp and well-rounded manner. In this particular case, Blu-ray isn’t doing a great number of favors for some of these films. The first shot of Bela Lugosi in Dracula is gorgeous, but some of the establishing shots of the castle itself are evidence of their time. It’s hit or miss, based on the source. But it’s the best we’re going to see from these films, at the very least. What matters here — and what makes this set a must own — is the ghoulishly delightful assortment of extras. From the Spanish version of Dracula to the 46-page color book of horrors, there are a number of things to love in this set. Each film, it would seem, has 1-2 new extras previously unreleased. It all adds up to a wonderful compendium on the founding fathers of cinematic horror. As an aside, it should be noted that the UK Region-Free edition of this set is slightly cheaper on Amazon UK, has slightly cooler box art and comes with a wicked coffin-style collector’s housing. No matter the edition you buy, you won’t find yourself wanting, so long as you buy one of them. Also available on DVD. - Neil Miller

Discs Section: Rent

Downton Abbey: Seasons 1 and 2

Pitch: I trust I’m not the only one who sees Edith as the Jan Brady of the manor…

Why Rent? The Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), his wife and their three daughters live the high life in Downton manor alongside a group of servants who keep the place humming like a fine machine. Drama, class warfare and the occasional bit of comedy are all the order of the day as the family seeks an heir and the servants seek their purpose. This two season set follows the family and their servants through the historical markers of the early 20th century, and you’d be forgiven for thinking a period drama from PBS would be something to miss… but damn is this show addictive in its characters and sharp writing. Maggie Smith is real firecracker. [Extras: Christmas Special, making of, featurettes]

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

Pitch: Who do that wire-fu that Yu do so well…

Why Rent? The eunuchs of China are out of control, and only one man can stop their reign of weiner-less terror. General Zhao (Jet Li) has sworn to protect the people from the power hungry Yu, and it’s not long before the two men head towards a clash during a giant sandstorm that will also include fellow warriors, thieves and a kickass swordswoman. Tsui Hark’s latest is big, colorful, action-filled filmmaking, but it’s also incredibly heavy on the wire-fu. It’s a bit overwhelming at times and lessens the effect of many of the fight scenes, but genre fans should still find much to enjoy here. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Making of, interviews, behind the scenes]

Funkytown

Pitch: Welcome to the incredibly harsh world of Canadian disco…

Why Rent? Montreal in the 1970s is a hotbed of bisexual disco action where dreams and reality collide against a backdrop of ambition, jealousy and satin. This ensemble drama follows veterans and newcomers to the club scene as they navigate the last few years of disco’s reign, and very few of them will survive with their pride, humanity and occasionally lives intact. The acting and production values are fine across the board, but viewers looking for a casually entertaining period drama should look elsewhere. This is heavy stuff. Heavy Canadian stuff. [Extras: Trailer]

The Hole

Pitch: It’s definitely an “exit only” kind of hole…

Why Rent? Dane and Lucas move with their mother into a new house, and it’s not long before they discover a mysterious, bottomless hole in the basement. The first clue that it contains bad things should have been the chains and padlocks, but the second is definitely the creepy terrors that begin to come to life to threaten the the boys and their hot neighbor Julie. Joe Dante’s heyday seems to be behind him with films like Gremlins and The Howling, but this is easily his most entertaining feature in a while. Also available on Blu-ray. [Extras: Featurettes, making of]

How I Met Your Mother: The Complete Season 7

Pitch: I’m pretty sure the kids have stopped listening, grown up and moved out of the house by now…

Why Rent? The premise of this long running sitcom sees a man telling his two kids the story of how he met their mother, and the long running gag is that he still has yet to tell his kids how he met their mother. Luckily the cast and writers are amiable and funny enough including a pretty much always on fire Neil Patrick Harris. Unlike the two comedies above this one is far more hit or miss so one viewing is more than enough. He and Cobie Smulders remain the highlights cast-wise, but the others get some zingers in as well. [Extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, gag reel, commentaries]

Magic City: The Complete First Season

Pitch: This show is single-handedly keeping merkin makers in business

Why Rent? Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is the owner and manager of Miami’s hottest hotel, the Miramar Playa, but running a successful business in 1959 Miami requires dealings with some incredibly shady characters. The always lovely Olga Kurylenko and the perpetually slimy Danny Huston co-star in this Starz series that feels at times like a sexier, updated Boardwalk Empire. All eight episodes of the first season are included featuring a story that includes the mob, Cuban Communists, the Kennedys and other stars of the time. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Featurettes]

Nikita: The Complete Second Season

Pitch: I don’t believe Maggie Q’s skinny arms could actually beat someone in a fight, but I’ll defend to the death her right to hold me with them…

Why Rent? Nikita’s (Maggie Q) war against the shadowy Division continues with the help of Michael (Shane West), Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) and Seymour (Aaron Stanford), and the result is the death of at least one major player and newfound challenges after his or her demise. This CW show remains the network’s most entertaining program, and it’s not just because of the lovely Miss Q. She helps, obviously, but the show also offers up some of TV’s best action sequences. The end of the season will leave you wondering where it can go from here, but it’s great fun getting there. Also available on Blu-ray.

Discs Section: Avoid

Chained

Pitch: You’ll wish it was Christina Ricci on the other end of that chain…

Why Avoid? A serial killer (Vincent D’Onofrio) kidnaps a mother and son, but after offing the woman he decides to keep and raise the boy as his own. Of course, his idea of raising a child involves chaining him to the wall, feeding him scraps and torturing him mentally and occasionally physically. As the boy grows into a young man (Eamon Farren) his “father” begins introducing him to the family business and forces him to partake. Jennifer Lynch’s latest film is a bleak affair with little to recommend. D’onofrio somewhat channels his killer from The Cell, and he comes across as more retarded than frightening. There’s no one interesting or engaging here, and the story feels a bit been-there-done-that. Skip it and watch Ghost instead. [Extras: Commentary, alternate scene, trailer]

Dark Shadows

Pitch: Trying to remember the last time Johnny Depp played a role instead of a character…

Why Avoid? Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) lives in old timey days, but when he spurns a witch (Eva Green) she turns him into a vampire and buries him alive. He’s released decades later in 1972 to a world that differs in Austin Power-like proportions from the one he knew before, and he discovers the Collins family (including Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Lee Miller, Chloe Moretz) has fallen on hard times. Can he help restore them to glory and survive the continued onslaught of the witch? Who cares. Tim Burton’s latest is a lame, ineffective comedy that neuters the gothic charm of the original series and fails to entertain on even the most basic level. And more than ever before, Moretz is really starting to show her limitations here. [Extras: Deleted scenes]

General Education

Pitch: This reminds me that we should really have a Blu-ray of Summer School by now…

Why Avoid? Levi Collins seems to be on the fast track for college, but when he discovers he’s failed a class and has been refused graduation he’s forced to attend summer school while hiding it from his demanding parents. Wacky comedy ensues! This unfunny comedy tries to make up for its weak script by adding normally funny folks like Janeane Garofalo and Larry Miller to the mix, but both of them flounder here. The performances seem fine, but none of them seem fully convinced they’re speaking funny lines. Also available on DVD. Skip it and watch Accepted instead. [Extras: Commentary, outtakes, making of, trailer]

Hypothermia

Pitch: Makes Frozen look like a horror classic…

Why Avoid? A family heads out on the ice for some serious ice fishing fun, but their boring solitude is interrupted by a loud father and son pair of fishermen. Raucous music becomes the least of their worries though when a humanoid creature beneath the ice rises up for supper. The problems here are legion, but the one that sinks the entire affair is the monster itself. It looks like a man in a scuba suit with plastic wings, glued-on eyes and a traffic cone beak. That combined with a weak script and poor direction mark it as something that just may have been rejected by the Syfy channel. On the plus side Dark Sky Films has included their first reversible cover sleeve, and the artwork is pretty sweet. Skip it and watch Cold Fish instead. [Extras: Making of, featurettes, trailer]

Discs Section: Also

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show, review material was unavailable, and I have no blind opinion:

Adventure Time: Jake vs Me-Mow
Hart of Dixie: The Complete First Season
Headshot
House: The Complete Series
In the Mood for Love (Criterion)
Iron Sky
The Lady
People Like Us
Red Lights
The Road


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