This week: Steven Spielberg directs Daniel Day-Lewis in his Oscar-winning role in "Lincoln" as the 16th President of the United States who spent the last few months of his life making changes that would affect generations of Americans.
Also new this week is the crime drama "Killing Them Softly" with Brad Pitt, the horror sequel "The Collection," the family comedy "Parental Guidance" and Stuart Gordon's cult favorite "From Beyond" on Blu-ray for the first time.
Box Office: $182 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 89% Fresh
Storyline: Steven Spielberg directs this revealing historical drama about the final months of Abraham Lincoln's presidency. In a country torn apart by the Civil War, the 16th President of the United States ((Daniel Day-Lewis) pursues a course of action that will end the conflict and abolish slavery. On board for the history lesson are Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Lincoln and James Spader as W.N. Bilbo.
Extras! Both the DVD and two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack contain the featurettes "A Journey to 'Lincoln'" and "A Historic Tapestry." You have to buy the four-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack to get even more making-of and behind-the-scenes extras, including "In the Company of Character," "Crafting the Past," "Living with Lincoln" and "In Lincoln's Footsteps."
We Say: Day-Lewis deservedly won the Oscar for Best Actor for doing his research and perfectly embodying President Lincoln, including his voice, cadence and mannerisms. All of the other actors, especially Field and Jones, give top-notch performances as well. Viewers expecting a lot of Spielberg-style battle scenes and action will be taken to school when they realize this talky drama is more about a battle of words and ideologies in courtrooms than blood on the battlefield. After two hours and 29 minutes of back-and-forth debate, the lauded film not only looks like but feels almost as long as the Civil War.
'Killing Them Softly'
Box Office: $15 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 75% Fresh
Storyline: After a mob-protected card game is heisted by a pair of inexperienced crooks, enforcer Jackie Coogan (Brad Pitt) is called in to settle the score and restore order in this bloody crime thriller directed by Andrew Dominik. Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Vincent Curatola, Max Casella, Slaine, Trevor Long and Sam Shepard get in on the gritty action.
Extras!: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain "The Making of 'Killing Them Softly'" and deleted scenes.
We Say: If you're looking to see Pitt back in tough-guy mode, you won't be disappointed by his turn in this darkly comic visceral thriller that doubles as a cautionary tale about capitalism. In the background of almost every scene — either on the radio or on a TV playing in a room — you can hear Presidents Bush and Obama talking about the financial crisis. The message — America is a corrupt business just like the mob — is beyond heavy-handed, but fans eager to see "goodfellas" like Gandolfini and Liotta back playing mob games probably won't mind.
Box Office: $6.8 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 37% Rotten
Storyline: In this sequel to the horror film "The Collector," Arkin (Josh Stewart) escapes from the Collector's lair with his sanity barely intact only to be blackmailed into returning with a team of mercenaries to rescue a young woman (Ella Fitzpatrick) who has been kidnapped after an underground warehouse-party massacre.
Extras!: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain a commentary track by the director/co-writer Marcus Dunstan and co-writer Patrick Melton, five behind-the-scenes featurettes and deleted/alternate scenes.
We Say: This lean (82 minutes) and mean gore fest is brought to you buy the guys that penned the last few "Saw" movies, so expect to see lots of inventive and grisly methods of dismemberment. Whereas "The Collector" was a quieter game of cat and mouse between Stewart's house burglar and the Collector, "The Collection" goes full "Aliens" and brings in the heavily armed hired guns that, of course, underestimate their psychopathic opponent who collects trophies of his victims and rigs his abode with deadly traps. Genre fans will relish the crimson-colored action, but it's too extreme for the casual viewer with a weak stomach.
Box Office: $77 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 19% Rotten
Storyline: Billy Crystal and Bette Midler play grandparents that agree to babysit their three grandchildren, who are overprotected by their hovering parents (Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott) in this PG-rated family comedy. Modern problems clash with the grandparents' old-school ways, but all learn that a little flexibility goes a long way to understanding.
Extras!: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain deleted scenes and a commentary track with Crystal and director Andy Fickman. Blu-ray exclusives are "FXM Productions Presents: In Character with Billy Crystal, Bette Midler and Marisa Tomei" and a gag reel.
We Say: Crystal, Midler and Tomei all deserve better than this vanilla family farce, and we've seen them each of them in much funnier movies such as "When Harry Met Sally," "Ruthless People" and "My Cousin Vinny," respectively. Revisit any of those movies again instead of seeing these three watered-down for mall and in-flight audiences.
'From Beyond' Blu-ray
Box Office: $1.3 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 75% Fresh
Storyline: A year after the cult success of "Re-Animator," director Stuart Gordon returned with this freaky 1986 horror gem also based on the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft. "Re-Animator"'s Jeffrey Combs returns as Crawford Tillinghast, an apprentice of Dr. Pretorious (Ted Sorel) who has invented a machine called 'the Resonator' that stimulates the pineal gland and allows humans to see the strange, slithery creatures that swim through the air around us in a parallel dimension. The Resonator has some undesirable side effects, the least of which include the fact that the creatures can now see human users as well. A beautiful doctor (Barbara Crampton) and a tough cop (Ken Foree) escort Crawford back to the lab to re-create his experiment … with disastrous results.
Extras!: This Collector's Edition contains audio commentary with Gordon and the cast, "The Director's Perspective," "The Editing Room: Lost and Found," a photo gallery and an interview with the composer. New for this Blu-ray are another commentary track, a look at the film's special effects plus recent interviews with Crampton, Combs and executive producer Charles Band.
We Say: "From Beyond" is still a midnight-movie-must with its deadpan performances and trippy, low-budget special effects that are truly otherworldly. This Blu-ray debut, which makes the film's garish pink and neon lighting really pop like never before, contains what is surely the best presentation of the cult classic out there.
Also New This Week:
"A Royal Affair"
"Phantasm II" Blu-ray
"The Sandlot" Blu-ray
"Terminator Anthology" Blu-ray
"To the Arctic"
"Music of the Heart" Blu-ray
"Day of the Falcon"