Hot Tips and Top Picks: DVDs, Blu-rays and digital debuts for the week of December 18

New Releases:

William Friedkin directs “Killer Joe” (Lionsgate), a southern-fried trailer-park noir with an undercurrent of black comedy. Matthew McConaughey is in prime form as a Dallas homicide cop with a sideline as a killer for hire, and he gets tangled up with a truly screwed-up family plot. Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand, and at Redbox. Available Friday, December 21. Videodrone’s review is here.

Premium Rush” (Sony) sends Joseph Gordon-Levitt zooming through the streets of New York as a bike messenger with a valuable package and a corrupt cop (Michael Shannon) on his tail. Simple, sleek, cleverly engineered, and paced like a rocket, it’s a terrific adrenaline trip. Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand, and at Redbox. Available Friday, December 21. Reviewed on Videodrone here.

Resident Evil: Retribution” (Sony), the fifth installment in the sci-fi franchise, sends Milla Jovovich back into battle with the viral zombies and the clones controlled by the Red  Queen. Given the video game origins, it’s an unusually clever twist to the series, at least in conceptual terms. Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand, and at Redbox. Available Friday, December 21. Videodrone’s review is here.

Total Recall” (Sony), meanwhile, a remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger science fiction thriller, delivers much less on a far bigger budget and big name cast. Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand, and at Redbox.

Pitch Perfect” (Universal), a small-scale drama set in the collegiate world of competitive acoustic group competition, became one of the sleeper success stories of the year. Anna Kendrick, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, and Rebel Wilson star. Blu-ray and DVD

Arbitrage” (Lionsgate), a drama set in the culture of corporate trading and financial misbehavior, stars Richard Gere in one of his best performances as a CEO who puts his company and family in jeopardy with his dealings. Blu-ray and DVD.

Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams star as father and daughter in “Trouble With the Curve” (Warner), a drama set in the culture of baseball scouting. Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand. Both available Friday, December 21.

Spike Lee returns to Brooklyn with “Red Hook Summer” (Image), a story of a middle class Atlanta kid spending the summer with his religious grandfather, which is also a return to his low budget roots. Blu-ray, DVD, and at Redbox.

Other American indies out this week are “Sleepwalk With Me” (MPI), a comedy written by and starring Mike Birbiglia, and the romantic drama “Liberal Arts” (MPI) from writer / director / star Josh Radnor. Both on Blu-ray and DVD.

From Portugal comes Miguel Gomes’ “Our Beloved Month of August” (Cinema Guild), on DVD with bonus short films by Gomes, and on the non-fiction front is the documentary “Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet” (Kino Lorber), a profile of the rock star diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease at age 19. Both DVD only.

Browse the complete New Release Rack here

TV on Disc:

House of Lies: The First Season” (Showtime) stars Don Cheadle as the proudly unscrupulous head of a management consultant team, a man who will do anything to land his client, from seduction to sedition, and Kristen Bell as his team leader, not yet as jaded and cynical but learning fast. The Showtime original series is ostensibly a satire of American corporate culture, but mostly it’s just another frame around extreme characters who spend a season indulging in bad behavior with little remorse. 12 episodes, DVD only. Videodrone’s review is here.

Shameless: The Complete Second Season” (Warner) offers another season of antics from the Gallagher clan. Eldest daughter Fiona (Emmy Rossum) tries to hold them together through a reunion with their manic-depressive mom, the rebellion of family genius lip, and the usual scams perpetrated by their reprobate dad (William H. Macy). Blu-ray and DVD.

Mankind: The Story of All of Us” (History), a 12-episode documentary series from the History Channel, surveys the high points of the rise of civilization in under ten hours. Blu-ray and DVD.

Plus more seasons of bad behavior in the pay-cable originals “Californication: The Fifth Season” (Paramount) and “The Life and Times of Tim: The Complete Third Season” (HBO) and the finale of the Lifetime original series “Army Wives: Season Six, Part Two” (ABC).

Flip through the TV on Disc Channel Guide here

Cool and Classic:

Two animated family features highlight this week’s releases. “The Point: Definitive Collector’s Edition” (MVD Visual) presents the 1971 musical fable written by Harry Nilsson in a new edition with featurettes. Ringo Starr narrates by Nilsson performs all the songs himself. DVD only.

The Adventures of Mark Twain” (Magnolia) is the first Claymation feature from Will Vinton Studios, a fantasy that combines biography and fiction into a fantastical adventure with Mark Twain (voiced by James Whitmore) and his literary characters. DVD and Blu-ray.

Gandu” (Artsploitation), which is an epithet in its original language, is a grungy, anti-Bollywood musical drama from India, shot in B&W and shot through with explicit sex, drugs, and musical interludes.

Previously available from other labels and re-released under new management are the gruesome 1970 cult horror “Mark of the Devil” (Cheezy Flicks) and Stephen Frears’ modern western “The Hi-Lo Country” (Shout! Factory), with Woody Harrelson and Billy Crudup.

All of the Cool and Classic here

Blu-ray Debuts:

Gypsy” (Warner Archive Collection), the 1962 screen musical based on the memoirs of legendary burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee (played by Natalie Wood), is really more about her pushy stage mother and Rosalind Russell plays her in big, broad, diva form. It’s one of the first Blu-ray releases from Warner Archive. Videodrone’s review is here.

Deathtrap” (Warner Archive Collection), another stage-to-screen adaptation, is the other debut Blu-ray. Michael Caine and Christopher star in this witty, self-aware murder mystery set in the culture of Broadway stage thrillers, adapted from the play by Ira Levin. Videodrone’s review is here.

Paul Newman stars in “Sometimes a Great Notion” (Shout! Factory), the screen version of Ken Kesey’s novel about a family of independent loggers in Oregon. And “Hard Core Logo” (VSC), Bruce McDonald’s edgy mockumentary of a punk band’s reunion tour, arrives on Blu-ray with a bonus copy of the new sequel, “Hard Core Logo 2.”

Peruse all the new Blu-rays here

New on Netflix Instant:

Arriving in advance of disc release are “The Kid With a Bike,” the low-key Belgian drama from the Dardenne Brothers, and “Pina” (2011), the dance documentary from director Wim Wenders. Both reviewed by Videodrone here.

Just out on disc are Julie Delpy’s “2 Days in New York” (2012), a comedy co-starring Chris Rock, and the sprawling 15-hour documentary “The Story of Film: An Odyssey,” an engaging and informative approach to the history and art of cinema.

And new Instant TV offerings include the Canadian supernatural series “Lost Girl: Season 1.

Browse more Instant offerings here

New On Demand:

Arriving On Demand in advance of disc release are “Cosmopolis,” David Cronenberg’s mesmerizing adaptation of Don DeLillo’s novel starring Robert Pattinson (MSN’s review is here), and “Hello, I Must Be Going,” written by and starring Melanie Lynskey.

And debuting in advance of theatrical release is “Struck By Lightning,” a comedy with Chris Colfer and Rebel Wilson.

Available Tuesday, December 18, day and date with video stores, is “Trouble With the Curve” with Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams, “Total Recall” with Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale, “10 Years” with Channing Tatum and Rosario Dawson, and the family comedy “Diary of a Wimpy Kid 3: Dog Days.

Arriving Friday, December 21 is “Killer Joe” (the unrated version), directed by William Friedkin and starring Matthew McConaughey and Emile Hirsch, the action film “Premium Rush” with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon, and “Resident Evil: Retribution,” the fifth installment in the sci-fi video game franchise.

Also new this week: the animated sequel “Ice Age: Continental Drift.”

Available from Redbox this week:

Arriving Tuesday, December 18, day and date with video stores is the remake of “Total Recall” (Sony) starring Colin Farrell, on Blu-ray and DVD, Spike Lee’s “Red Hook Summer” (Image), and “The Good Doctor” (Magnolia) with Orlando Bloom.

Coming Friday, December 21 is William Friedkin’s “Killer Joe” with Matthew McConaughey, “Premium Rush” (Sony) with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and “Resident Evil: Retribution” (Sony).

For a calendar of upcoming releases, click here

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website ( I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View ( I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly,, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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