THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
“Edge of Tomorrow”: Here’s a time-loop sci-fi adventure that really works, one that not only gives us plausible scenarios, lots of military action and terrific special effects, but also a fine performance from the enigmatic Tom Cruise. All from eclectic director Doug Liman (who brought us “Swingers,” “Go,” “The Bourne Identity” and “Jumper”). The plot: In the near future, an alien race has hit the Earth in an unrelenting assault, and is on the verge of destroying the world’s armies. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), an officer who has never seen a day of combat, is unceremoniously dropped into what amounts to a suicide mission. Killed within minutes, Cage finds himself inexplicably thrown into a time loop — forcing him to live out the same brutal combat over and over, fighting and dying again … and again. During one of his loops, he meets up with Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a Special Forces warrior who also has encountered the time anomalies, and she trains Cage to engage the adversaries with increasing skill. Each repeated encounter — expertly mapped out by Liman — gets them one step closer to defeating the enemy. Extras include deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette with Liman, and short vignettes on “Weapons of the Future” and “Creatures Not of This World.” From Warner.
“A Million Ways to Die in the West”: Seth MacFarlane chose this junky send-up of Western films as his follow-up to the brilliant and funny “Ted” and struck out his second time at bat:
The three strikes were an insipid and boring storyline, weak acting by several of the leads, (including MacFarlane himself and Sarah Silverman), and limp direction. There’s no fun in the town of Old Stump, where MacFarlane plays sheep farmer and coward Albert Stark, whose fickle fiancee (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him for a mustachioed dandy (Neil Patrick Harris). To try to win her back, he enlists the help of Anna (Charlize Theron), a gorgeous gunslinger hiding out in the town, waiting for the return of her husband, Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), the most dangerous desperado around. There’s plenty of stale bathroom jokes transported into the Old West, a lot of stupid carnage, and an unnecessary and distastefully filthy subplot with Silverman as a saloon whore who wants to be “pure” for her betrothed boyfriend (Giovanni Ribisi). The Blu-ray includes an unrated version with 18 additional minutes. There’s a load of extras that only highlight the lackluster nature of the production, including a featurette about some of the familiar faces that pop into the town of Old Stump, including a visit from Christopher Lloyd, aka Doc Brown (who, if he was really smart, would have hopped into his “Back to the Future” DeLorean and time-traveled the hell out of this movie). From Universal.
Also due this week: “Million Dollar Arm” and “Obvious Child.”
THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS:
There’s three blasts from the past to tickle your imagination this week:
Disney offers up this week the “Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition,” a Blu-ray reissue of the 2008 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition Blu-ray. The image and sound are superb, as was that version six years ago, and the extra features are embellished with three never-before-seen deleted scenes. Other special features include “Once Upon a Parade,” in which “Modern Family” star Sarah Hyland tells us the tale of Walt Disney World’s new Festival of Fantasy Parade; “Art of Evil: Generations of Disney Villains,” a legacy piece spotlighting Disney’s favorite villain animator and Maleficent creator Marc Davis; “@DisneyAnimation: Artists in Motion,” in which Walt Disney Animation Visual Development artist Brittney Lee goes through the process of creating a three dimensional sculpture of Maleficent, completely out of paper; “BEAUTY-OKE Once Upon A Dream” sing-along; classic DVD bonus features “The Sound of Beauty: Restoring a Classic,” “Picture Perfect: The Making Of Sleeping Beauty,” “Eyvind Earle: A Man And His Art” about “Sleeping Beauty” art director Eyvind Earle. The 1959 film was directed by Clyde Geronimi with the voices of Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Barbara Luddy, Barbara Jo Allen. Disney is also releasing a DVD version as well offering it on Disney Movies Anywhere, its cloud service.
Next up is “The Best of The Danny Kaye Show” (2013), a two-disc set with six uncut episodes of the Emmy-winning 1963-1967 variety show. Danny Kaye was at the height of his popularity when “The Danny Kaye Show” debuted on CBS in the fall of 1963. A pair of Broadway hits including “Lady In the Dark” and “Let’s Face It” and a succession of classic films including “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “The Inspector General,” “The Court Jester,” “Hans Christian Andersen” and “White Christmas” made Danny Kaye one of the biggest stars in show business. “The Danny Kaye Show” was the perfect showcase for its star’s unequaled range of talents: Kaye, who was 52 when the show premiered, sings with Ella Fitzgerald (1966), Nana Mouskouri and Harry Belafonte (1965); sings and dances with Liza Minnelli (1966) and Gene Kelly (1963); and deftly clowns his way through comedy sketches with Art Carney, Rod Serling and Jackie Cooper (1963). Also featured in this collection are Michelle Lee, Buddy Greco, John Gary, Joe & Eddie, Lovelady Powell and Alan Young. Series regulars included Harvey Korman, Jamie Farr, Joyce Van Patten and orchestra leader Paul Weston. Among the numerous gems: Kaye conducting the Television City Philharmonic, a spoof of “The Twilight Zone” with Rod Serling, performances of Danny Kaye classics “Pavlova” written by Danny’s wife Sylvia Fine and originally seen in the film “The Kid From Brooklyn,” and “Ballin’ the Jack” from “On the Riviera,” and a brilliant interpretation of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” if that song was performed in “My Fair Lady,” West Side Sotry” and “The Music Man.” Not to be missed. $24.95 from MVD Visual.
“The Wonder Years: Season One” (2013) is a two-disc set that includes all six unedited episodes from the unforgettable first season (1988) and features every song from the original broadcasts, with classics by Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds, Joni Mitchell, The Monkees, Steppenwolf and Smokey Robinson, plus Joe Cocker’s timeless rendition of The Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends.” “The Wonder Years” debuted in 1988 following ABC’s broadcast of Super Bowl XXII, and the affectionate look at growing up in the late ’60s and early ’70s in suburban America was unlike anything else on television. It was 1968 — the year of Nixon and space walks and Mod Squad and Vietnam. Enter Kevin Arnold, a sixth grader at Kennedy Junior High School. Set against the suburban backdrop of Anytown, USA, Kevin sought to minimize his teenage angst while dealing with an older, noogie-happy brother Wayne (Jason Hervey), a rebellious sister, Karen (Olivia d’Abo), distant, workaholic father, Jack (Dan Lauria) and doting housewife mother, Norma (Alley Mills). Add to the mix Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano), his nerdy, allergy-riddled best friend, a potential love interest in winsome girl-next-door Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar) and narration by an older, wiser, wittier Kevin (voiced by Daniel Stern) to add perspective to the nostalgia, and you have the perfect recipe for TV greatness. And, for the next six seasons, America tuned in to follow Kevin’s exploits, as he navigated adolescence in the most memorable of ways. $19.95. Also available online only is a 26-disc collector’s set featuring all 115 episodes housed in a replica metal locker, along with a host of extras including 23 hours of specially-produced bonus programming. Read the release. From StarVista Entertainment/Time Life.