Seth Rogen's directorial debut is far from apocalyptic.
This is the End
What could have easily been an overlong Funny or Die web video -- with Seth Rogen and buddies Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride playing heightened versions of themselves against an apocalyptic backdrop -- instead became a movie that's outrageously funny and surprisingly wise in its depiction of the steady dissolution of once-strong male friendships. That narrative thread, which specifically involves buddies Seth and Jay coming to terms with the fact that their made-in-Canada relationship is as over as the world itself, is what ties the movie's individual comic sketches together and pays off in a deliriously over-the-top finale. Making their debut in the director's chair, Rogen and his longtime collaborator Evan Goldberg don't demonstrate the most sophisticated of visual palettes, but like early Mel Brooks, the style of This is the End is functional enough to be consistently funny. Among the cast, Baruchel and McBride are the standouts as the group's resident angel and devil, respectively, while Franco and Robinson also get some memorable moments. (The only odd man out is Hill, whose "Jonah Hill" character never quite coheres.) And then there are the steady stream of memorable cameos from such likely and unlikely actors as Michael Cera and Emma Watson. The best thing about This is the End? The ending pretty much rules out any chance of a sequel.
Extras: Taking a page from their mentor, Judd Apatow, Rogen and Goldberg have tricked out the DVD with a copious amount of bonus features, including deleted scenes, two blooper reels, six featurettes, the sketch that inspired the movie, a commentary track and various marketing materials ranging from trailers to confessionals.
Click here to read our original review
The Little Mermaid: Diamond Edition
The trailers and posters for DreamWorks's Flintstones knock-off The Croods didn't do much to inspire confidence in this prehistoric road trip comedy. But we should have known better than to doubt Chris Sanders, the movie's co-director and the skillful helmer of such superior animated fare as Lilo & Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon. The Croods isn't on that level, but it's infinitely better than we could have predicted, with some breathtaking imagery of this fantastical ancient world and a surprising amount of emotional heft. The humor can be hit-and-miss, though, with dumb mother-in-law jokes and dull bits of slapstick distracting from cleverer gags. More than anything, The Croods proves that, even in animated form, Emma Stone can make anything better. Her spirited vocal performance as the rebellious daughter of the titular clan (whose patriarch is a more subdued Nic Cage) makes the movie worth watching alone. On the other hand, we wouldn't blame you for passing on The Croods to watch The Little Mermaid for the umpteenth time, especially now that the 1989 Disney favorite is available for the first time in high-def. The instigator of the Mouse House's '90s renaissance, Mermaid's music is still its finest attribute, be it Ariel's signature anthem "Part of Your World" or the infectious beat of "Under the Sea." (It also boasts one of Disney's best contemporary villains, Ursula the Sea Witch.) If you don't already have this title in your home library, here's the perfect opportunity to change that.
Extras: The Croods offers a guide to the movie's wild, wooly creatures, a coloring and storybook app, music videos and an additional short. The Little Mermaid boasts a new "Part of Your World" music video recorded by Carly Rae Jepsen, a singalong, an introduction to a character deleted from the finished film, behind-the-scenes footage and a featurette starring the voice of Ariel herself, Jodi Benson.
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The Frozen Ground
100 Bloody Acres
Reunited for the first time since Con Air, '90s movie stars turned prolific direct-to-DVD actors Nic Cage and John Cusack switch roles for this ripped-from-the-headlines procedural, with Cage playing the crusading Alaskan cop who hunts down Cusack's especially deadly killer of prostitutes. Breaking Bad's Dean Norris lends additional support as one of Cage's colleagues, while Vanessa Hudgens proves far less essential as the one hooker-who-got-away. Grim, gloomy and glacially paced in the way that so many of these Se7en-influenced policiers are, The Frozen Ground just leaves you -- you guessed it -- cold. There's considerably more energy coursing through the low-budget Aussie horror picture, 100 Bloody Acres, a familiar, but diverting spin on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and other stories of crazy families who treat stray humans as meat. Writer/directors Cameron and Colin Cairnes use gore sparingly, but effectively and also try to keep the tone light… as light as possible for a story involving two siblings running a fertilizer business that requires human bodies to give the product its special "organic" kick and the three hitchhikers that fall into their trap. The way this scenario plays out isn't exactly surprising, but it is a cut above most Chainsaw knock-offs, including the franchise's recent reboot.
Extras: The Frozen Ground comes with a director-led commentary track, deleted scenes, cast and crew interviews and two featurettes. 100 Bloody Acres includes interviews, a gag reel, behind-the-scenes footage and a storyboard gallery.
House of Wax
The Wizard of Oz may be turning 75 this year, but it'll feel forever young thanks to its showman's flair for spectacle and thrilling mix of music, adventure and even a touch of horror. A commercial disappointment for MGM upon its initial release, Oz has gone on to become a touchstone of fantasy filmmaking that still stirs the imagination of viewers young and old. But all that makes it sound like a museum piece: just watch the movie and you'll realize how vital and fresh it still is… so vital that even an unnecessary IMAX 3D transfer can't distract from its old-school charm. Really want to spoil your kids? Treat them to a double bill of The Little Mermaid and The Wizard of Oz this weekend. While decidedly not for the younger set, older kids would probably also enjoy the retro charm of Vincent Price's 1953 chiller House of Wax, about a wax museum whose primary exhibition subject is… murder. Don't be fooled into buying the 2005 Paris Hilton remake; even though it's pushing 60, the original is a heck of a lot more and stylish and spooky. And you won't have to pay 3D prices to watch it in 3D on your home screen.
Extras: The primary offering on the two-disc release is a newly-produced feature-length retrospective documentary exploring Oz's origins and enduring legacy. There are also a collection of bonus features ported over from previous editions, most notably a commentary track with film historian John Fricke and a sing-along function. You can also spring for the Limited Collector's Edition, which comes with three extra discs featuring a collection of rarely-seen Oz films from the silent era, a six-hour documentary exploring the history of MGM, a frameable Oz Map, a sparkle globe and a journal. House of Wax features a commentary track with two horror movie experts, a newsreel, a bonus feature (1933's Mystery of the Wax Museum) and a retrospective featurette.
Click here to read our review of the IMAX 3D release
Also on DVD:
Nobody bothered to see the Colin Farrell-starring 2011 Fright Night reboot, but that didn't stop Fox from making a quickie direct-to-DVD sequel Fright Night 2: New Blood, with Defiance's Jaime Murray playing a professor who moonlights by… well, moonlight as a vampire. The Shout! Factory released box set The Amityville Horror Trilogy offers the first three Amityville Horror haunted house stories -- the hit 1979 original, the 1982 sequel and the 1983 3D attempt -- under one roof. Or you could just wait for the upcoming release of James Wan's summer hit, The Conjuring, which is better than any actual Amityville Horror movie. Leaving horror behind for a moment, the classic romantic drama From Here to Eternity is available in a new Blu-ray edition, as is the less-classic Tommy Lee Jones vehicle, Volcano. And in case you missed that comprehensive James Bond box set Bond 50 from last year, it's hitting shelves again, this time with Skyfall included.
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