This Week in DVD & Blu-ray is a column that compiles all the latest info regarding new DVD and Blu-ray releases, sales, and exclusive deals from stores including Target, Best Buy and Fry’s.

Buy It

ORPHAN
This movie is balls-out insane, in the best way possible. I remember watching the trailer several months back and shaking my head, wondering when we’d finally escape the overused “evil child” horror formula. Having now seen the film, I’m happy to admit that I judged too soon: This may be the best entry in the genre yet. That’s not to say it’s perfect; I could’ve done without the obligatory jump scare tactics, and many of its plot points will feel very familiar if you’ve seen this type of movie before (it was especially jarring for me, having recently saw Joshua, in which Vera Farmiga once again played the mother to a psychotic child… I take it Vera Farmiga is pro-choice?). Put aside those minor issues though, and you’re left with one of the weirdest, ballsiest, most uncomfortably funny (perhaps unintentionally so?) horror flicks to be released by a major studio in quite some time. I’m not surprised that critics were split on it, because it’s not the easiest film to categorize. The first half of the movie is mostly slow-burn drama with moments of eerie intrigue foreshadowing what’s to come. The events play out more like a psychological thriller than your typical horror film. Just when you’re getting comfortable with the film’s ominous tone and pace, the crazy kid factor kicks into full gear, and the movie transforms into a heart-pounding exercise in sadism and glorious absurdity. Some may be disappointed to find the film devolve into unapologetic B-movie trash (albeit extremely well done trash), but given that so much of the movie’s effectiveness is due to it taking the time to build to the insanity instead of just using it as a starting place, you can’t exactly fault the film for choosing that method to unveil its true intentions. And why would you want to? So much of what makes the film unique and rewarding is a result of the crazy directions the story eventually takes. I don’t want to spoil what some of those directions are, but let’s just say that there’s a reveal toward the end of the movie that’s guaranteed to make you reevaluate everything that’s come before it. There’s also a strong focus on the two other children, a risky choice that generates a number of arm-rest-clawing moments of intensity. Deserving much of the credit for these scenes is Isabelle Fuhrman, who gives a fantastic performance as the psycho-girl Esther. Somehow, Fuhrman is fully believable in a role that calls for her to be far more intelligent than every other character in the film, and equally as sinister. With the entire movie basically hinging on a young actress being capable enough to handle the part, it’s impressive that Orphan managed to be anything other than a disaster, let alone the wonderfully deranged horror/thriller that it ultimately became.
Blu-ray? Yes.
Notable Extras: DVD – Additional scenes and an alternate ending. Blu-ray – Everything on the DVD, as well as a Mama’s Little Devils: Bad Seeds, Evil Kids and Orphan featurette, and a digital copy of the film.

BEST DVD PRICE
Target Best Buy Fry’s
$16.99 $17.99 $16.77
Amazon – $17.99

BEST BLU-RAY PRICE
Target Best Buy Fry’s
$25.99 $25.99 $24.77
Amazon – $24.99

Rent It

WHATEVER WORKS
Give or take a few years, Woody Allen has written & directed a movie a year since 1971. In that time, he’s made a number of truly outstanding pictures, and has guaranteed his place in the filmmaker hall of fame. The man is a legend. It’s because of this that it pains me whenever it comes time to discuss many of his more recent efforts. Though I did find a lot to admire in Match Point, and to a slightly lesser degree, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, I have not been impressed by any of the other films he’s made in the past ten years. Whatever Works continues this trend. The film is perfectly adequate in every way, and nothing more. Having recently become addicted to Curb Your Enthusiasm, I was looking forward to seeing what Larry David could do in the traditional Woody Allen role, but even David’s performance doesn’t offer much to get excited about. Originally written in the ’70s, the script is almost exactly what you’d expect from Woody Allen, minus the enthusiasm and creativity. The story is just too familiar and conventional, and the whole thing just feels too stagey—it might as well be a play. It’s the type of movie that Woody Allen can write in his sleep. I could be wrong, but I fully suspect that Whatever Works was nothing more than a way for Allen to keep himself busy until next year’s effort. Whatever works, I guess.
Blu-ray? Yes.
Notable Extras: None.

BEST DVD PRICE
Target Best Buy Fry’s
$19.99 $17.99 $19.99
Amazon – $17.99

BEST BLU-RAY PRICE
Target Best Buy Fry’s
$27.96 $26.99 $27.99
Amazon – $26.99

Skip It

ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS
With the addition of 3D no longer acting as a selling point on the film’s home video release, the third entry in the Ice Age franchise loses a lot of what contributed to its primary redeeming quality: the amazing visuals. It’s certainly not worth watching the film for its story. With the second film already feeling like a forced attempt to milk a cash cow, the earnestness that made the first film such a pleasing diversion has now been fully replaced with dollar signs. As it stands, the biggest problem with Dawn of the Dinosaurs is the same issue that plagued the first sequel: these characters were only designed for one film. In Ice Age, Blue Sky Studios took three broad, uncomplicated characters, gave them a simple conflict to overcome, and made it so that they could each experience just enough growth to satisfy the requisite character arcs. In the second film, there was nowhere left for the story or characters to go, so the writers had to introduce a bunch of arbitrary new conflicts and characters, none of which felt like organic additions to the series. And that’s exactly the process that this third film suffers from as well. It all feels rather stale and lazy. It’s a shame too, since the action sequences put the gorgeous animation to excellent use. If it wasn’t such a struggle to muster even the slightest bit of emotional investment in the characters, it might be worth watching for those scenes alone.
Blu-ray? Yes.
Notable Extras: DVD – Filmmaker commentary. Blu-ray – Includes everything on the DVD, as well as featurettes (“Evolution Expedition”, “Buck…Easel to Weasel”, “Falling for Scratte”, “Unearthing the Lost World”, “The Sabre-Toothed Squirrel: Natures Nutty Buddy”), 2 unfinished deleted scenes, 2 Scrat Shorts (“Gone Nutty – Scrat’s Missing Adventure”, “No Time For Nuts”), 5 Fox Movie Channel Presents featurettes, a digital copy of the film, and the standard definition DVD.

BEST DVD PRICE
Target Best Buy Fry’s
$15.99 $14.99 $15.77
Amazon – $14.99

BEST BLU-RAY PRICE
Target Best Buy Fry’s
$24.99 $24.99 $22.77
Amazon – $23.49

Not Screened

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE PLAN
As an outsider to the BSG universe (watching the show has been on my “to-do” list for about a year now), I won’t pretend to know what constitutes “essential viewing material” when it comes to the series, but I certainly can’t say that those are the words that came to mind when reading up on The Plan. Intended to show events from the Cylons’ perspective, the TV movie incorporates a combination of newly filmed material and compilation of clips from show/mini-series. The response from viewers thus far has been mostly mixed, with most people agreeing that even though it’s nice to have a few questions answered, the new material ultimately doesn’t add much to the story.
Blu-ray? Yes.
Notable Extras: DVD & Blu-ray – A filmmaker commentary, deleted scenes, and featurettes (“From Admiral to Director: Edward James Olmos and The Plan”, “The Cylons of The Plan”, “The Cylon Attack”, “Behind The Plan”).

BEST DVD PRICE
Target Best Buy Fry’s
$17.99 $16.99 $15.77
Amazon – $16.99

BEST BLU-RAY PRICE
Target Best Buy Fry’s
$25.99 $26.99 N/A
Amazon – $23.49

NOTHING LIKE THE HOLIDAYS
Another year, another compulsory holiday family dramedy. As far as I can tell, this is nothing more than a simplistic attempt to target an untapped demographic by recycling a familiar Christmas story with a Puerto Rican twist. It does have a great cast though: Alfred Molina, Luis Guzmán, John Leguizamo, Freddy Rodríguez, etc. That’s already an improvement over most Xmas flicks.
Blu-ray? Yes.
Notable Extras: DVD – Cast/crew commentary, “Nothing Like a Family: Cast Reunion”, and bloopers. Blu-ray – Includes everything on the DVD, as well as a “Picture-in-Picture Insider” feature.

BEST DVD PRICE
Target Best Buy Fry’s
$16.99 $14.99 $19.99
Amazon – $19.99

BEST BLU-RAY PRICE
Target Best Buy Fry’s
$27.99 $24.99 $26.99
Amazon – $24.49

EXCLUSIVE DEAL:
What? Exclusive CD Soundtrack with DVD.
Where? Target.

Other noteworthy DVD (and Blu-ray) releases this week…
Il DivoFear(s) of the DarkZ (Criterion Collection) – Night of the Creeps [DVD / Blu-ray] – Nation Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Ultimate Collector’s Edition) [DVD / Blu-ray] – Monty Python: Almost the Truth [DVD / Blu-ray] – Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure [DVD / Blu-ray]

Other noteworthy Blu-ray-specific releases this week…
The Prisoner (The Complete Series)Stargate (15th Anniversary Edition)

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