This week: Tim Burton expands his short stop-motion film "Frankenweenie" into a charming feature-length film about a boy who uses science to bring his beloved pet back to life.
Box Office: $35 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 89% Fresh
Storyline: Tim Burton's feature-length expansion of his stop-motion short is about a boy named Victor who harnesses the power of science to bring his dog Sparky back to life. When Victor's fellow students get wind of his reanimated pooch, they set out to resurrect their own dead pets and discover that getting a second lease on life is scary stuff. "Frankenweenie" features the voices of Charlie Tahan, Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, Catherine O'Hara and more.
Extras! Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D, "Frankenweenie" has several making-of featurettes, Burton's original short film and the music video "Pet Sematary" by Plain White T's.
We Say: Parents complain that there isn't enough quality entertainment for children, so when one like this comes along … no one goes to the theater. Maybe, like its titular dog, "Frankenweenie" will get a new lease on life on video as its heartfelt story coupled with a strong pro-science message is a cut way above other junk-food animated features.
Box Office: $13 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 78% Fresh
Storyline: In the future, most of America is a wasteland save for Mega-City One, a sprawling metropolis where criminals rule the streets. Dredd (Karl Urban) and his fellow Judges are urban cops that impose order with the combined powers of judge, juror and instant executioner. Dredd takes his new psychic rookie (Olivia Thirlby) on a mission to secure the Peach Trees skyscraper ruled by the tyrannical Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), whose gang is manufacturing and distributing a street drug named Slo-Mo that makes users experience time more slowly.
Extras! Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D, "Dredd" has several making-of featurettes, a 14-minute overview of 35 years of the "Judge Dredd" comic and a motion-comic prequel to the film that gives a little backstory on Ma-Ma.
We Say: "Dredd" is a proof positive that fan-boy approval and blogger diarrhea of the keyboard doesn't translate into box office dollars, but no matter — this comic adaptation is all kinds of awesome and far superior to the 1995 "Judge Dredd" starring Sylvester Stallone. Urban nails it as the tough-talking Judge who never shows his face, Heady is scary and unhinged as Ma-Ma, the violence is "The Raid"-level crazy and the druggy shots of people under the influence of Slo-Mo look strangely beautiful — especially in 3D.
'House at the End of the Street'
Box Office: $32 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 11% Rotten
Storyline: Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) and her mother (Elisabeth Shue) move to new rural town for a fresh start and discover that they live down the street from a house in which a family was murdered. Elissa takes a liking to the sole survivor (Max Thieriot), the son who lives in the house that the town fears, and strange things start to happen that threaten to expose a chilling secret.
Extras!: The only extra of note is a Blu-ray exclusive entitled "Journey into Terror: Inside 'House at the End of the Street.'"
We Say: The cover of "House at the End of the Street" is swallowed up by the face of Lawrence, star of "The Hunger Games" and potential Oscar nominee for "Silver Linings Playbook," to capitalize on her newfound fame. We're guessing she'd rather you forget this tepid teen thriller that borrows (steals?) liberally from "Psycho," "Fatal Attraction" and far superior thrillers in which people "go a little mad sometimes."
Box Office: $2.6 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 76% Fresh
Storyline: From the creators of the Award-winning "Baraka" comes this new sensory experience shot entirely on 70mm film that was shot over five years in 25 countries. Neither a traditional documentary nor a travel feature, "Samsara" explores the wonders of the world and illuminates the ties between humanity and the rest of nature.
Extras!: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain filmmaker interviews and a behind-the-scenes featurette.
We Say: The packaging for the Blu-ray boasts "8K UltraDigital HD," so please interpret that as "This is the most gorgeous transfer you're likely to ever see on a Blu-ray." Even if some might find the message behind the poetic imagery to be heavy-handed, there's no denying that "Samsara" is one of the most extraordinary-looking movies your HDTV will ever display. A feature with these sumptuous images scanned at such a high level of resolution is a perfect argument for the necessity of Blu-ray technology — a DVD simply cannot capture its visual ecstasy.