Note: Since both Christmas and New Year's Day fall on Tuesdays this year, it's thrown off the rest of the 2012 retail calendar. So, this edition of New on DVD/Blu-ray covers everything between now January 1, 2013.
Way Better Than You'd Expect
Pitch Perfect - Universal - Blu-ray and DVD
Release Date: Sep 28, 2012
Director: Jason Moore
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson. Full cast + crew
On paper Pitch Perfect sounds like a disaster. It's about college singing group competitions, which makes it sound like a movie just cashing in on the popularity of singing shows on television. But it's much, much, much better than that. Pitch Perfect is like Bring It On for a new, remix-obsessed generation. It takes a dull subject matter and makes it absolutely entertaining from beginning to end. Seriously, I had more fun with this movie than I did most of the summer's big blockbusters-- and that's not an attack on superhero movies, Pitch Perfect is just that good.
Special Features: Audio commentaries; deleted/extended scenes (nearly 30 minutes in total); in-character college interviews; music video.
Instant Time-Travel Classic
Looper - Sony - Blu-ray and DVD
Release Date: Sep 28, 2012
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan. Full cast + crew
"Instant Classic" is a phrase that gets bandied about prematurely, but in the case of Looper, it's a fairly safe bet. Combine a truly original time-travel story with Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and that's just bound to happen. Even if you don't outright love the movie, it's hard to argue that people won't be referencing Looper for years to come, be it for the Gordon-Levitt/Willis makeup hybrid, the sci-fi dynamics, or even the more subtle things, like Emily Blunt or Jeff Daniels. It's a very fine film indeed and a must-see for sci-fi fans.
Special Features: Commentary with Rian Johnson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Emily Blunt; making-of featurette; deleted scenes; "The Science of Time Travel" featurette; scoring Looper
If Looper is destined for instant classic status, Premium Rush (available 12/21) may just become a curious little footnote as "that bike-messenger movie Joseph Gordon-Levitt made the same year as Looper." There's an intentionally late '80s, early '90s sincerity to the latest from David Koepp (Stir of Echoes, Secret Window) that I, as a big fan of the movies of that time period, love. However, the end result hits an odd tone that feels almost too scattered and all over the place. It's worth a watch if only for JGL and Michael Shannon as a strung out corrupt cop.
Getting back to sci-fi, we've also got Len Wiseman's Total Recall remake and Resident Evil: Retribution (available 12/21), the latest in the apocalyptic undead franchise. The former is packed to the brim with some pretty incredible visuals that make for a great-looking, memorable (though unrealistic) vision of the future. Kate Beckinsale is actually the standout here, as she's clearly having a lot of fun playing the sexy bad guy for a change, but the rest of the movie takes itself too seriously and loses sight of the bizarre traits that made the Schwarzenegger version so much fun. Then there's Retribution, which unfortunately is not the strongest entry in the franchise. If you thought past films got too silly, then you're going to hate this one, but if all you expect is to see Milla Jovovich in a skintight outfit blowing away hordes of the undead, it certainly delivers on that front.
Then we have Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days and Trouble with the Curve, two films that will definitely appeal to their target audiences. The former is yet another fun, lighthearted entry into the live-action franchise based off of the incredibly popular book series, while the latter is a feel-good Clint Eastwood movie (he stars but does not direct) about a daughter and her father trying to reconnect as adults.
The end of the year sees the release of quite a few indie movies that stood out for various reasons throughout the year. Sleepwalk with Me is comedian Mike Birbiglia's somewhat autobiographical film about life as a stand-up comedian, and our own Jacob Hall is quoted on the Blu-rays cover as calling it "One of the best films ever made on the subject of stand-up comedy." Arbitrage is yet another under-the-radar thriller starring Richard Gere. The Good Doctor is a creepy little movie about a doc (Orlando Bloom) who becomes enamored with a patient and tries to sabotage her chances for release from the hospital. Liberal Arts is the latest film written and directed by How I Met Your Mother star Josh Radnor. And finally 10 Years is an attempt at making a bittersweet movie about a high school reunion, and it features a pretty cool cast of likeable indie regulars.
The American Scream is one of the most charming, wholly enjoyable films of the year. It's the latest documentary from director Michael Stephenson (Best Worst Movie) and it follows three different families who build their own haunted houses every year. That may not sound like the most compelling subject matter ever, but it's actually a fascinating subculture filled with memorable personalities and palpable passion. It's available on Blu-ray and DVD exclusively from the film's website, and I highly recommend checking it out.
After that we've got Killer Joe, the latest from Exorcist director William Friedkin. I've yet to see it, but considering how divisive it's been (people either seem to love it or be adamantly repulsed by it), it's highly anticipated. Red Hook Summer, the latest from Spike Lee, on the other hand, has had a more standard reaction to it throughout the year: it's fine, but it's far from Lee's best. If neither of those films are your speed, though, maybe give a shot to the French drama The Well-Digger's Daughter or the Zoe Saldana/Bradley Cooper romance The Words.
If you're a movie geek who always wants to throw an obscure movie on in the background of a party, you must pick up Trailer War. This is Drafthouse Films' equivalent of 42nd Street Forever: a continuous loop of trailers for absolutely insane movies that time has long forgotten. It's packed with obscure gems and is bound to be a great conversation starter. If you'd like to keep things more family friendly, though, all three live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies hit Blu-ray just in time for Christmas.
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