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What to Watch: Oct. 20-26, 2013

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CHICAGO – It’s a weird week at the video store (do they still have those?) or in the New Releases section of your favorite Video On Demand service. There’s some real junk that we’ll get to (“The Internship”) along with some flicks that are just too good not to break out into their own special Blu-ray reviews (“Before Midnight,” “The Conjuring” — both must-sees). And then there’s a unique array of catalog releases and TV seasons. Those could easily fall through the cracks if not for the informative What to Watch. All of these are new to Blu-ray, some for the first time and some in anniversary/special editions. At least one will grab your attention.

High Plains Drifter
High Plains Drifter
Photo credit: Universal

“High Plains Drifter”

One of Clint Eastwood’s best directorial efforts launches a new line of Blu-rays from Universal under the banner of “1970s Best of the Decade.” It will be interesting to see what the company includes in this wave of releases and whether or not they feel like mere cash grabs to get fans of hit movies to buy them again or honest-to-goodness restorations and anniversary editions. In related news, “High Plains Drifter” is 40 years old. Hard to believe, I know.

Clint Eastwood returns to his familiar Old West stomping grounds and his internationally acclaimed role of “The Man With No Name” in High Plains Drifter. This time, The Stranger (Eastwood) mysteriously appears out of the heat waves of the desert and rides into the lawless, sin-ridden town of Lago. After making a name for himself with a string of blazing gun battles, The Stranger is hired by the townspeople to provide a protection from three ruthless gunmen just out of jail. Directed by Clint Eastwood himself, this pulse-pounding shoot-em-up is recognized as one of his signature western classics.

Special Features:
o Digital Copy

Where to Watch: Blu-ray, DVD, Vudu, Amazon Instant Streaming, iTunes

Love Actually
Love Actually
Photo credit: Universal

“Love Actually”

Universal is one of the biggest movie studios in the world and they have an arsenal of movies from which to choose every year to repackage in the hopes that someone will buy one for their sweetheart this holiday season. One of the first such releases to hit the shelves is this beloved romantic comedy, which now includes a rather cheap Christmas ornament. If you or your loved one already owns it, don’t bother. If not, it’s well-priced and makes a lovely gift.

Feel the love this holiday season with the Love Actually: 10th Anniversary Edition! Funny, charming and heartwarming, this delightful romantic comedy follows eight couples whose lives intersect shortly before Christmas. Headlined by an incredible roster of stars, this beloved film also features early movie appearance by Martin Freeman (The Hobbit Franchise), Andrew Lincoln (The Walking Dead), January Jones (Mad Men) and Thomas Sangster (Game Of Thrones). From the makers of Bridget Jone’s Diary and Notting Hill, it’s the perfect companion for every Christmas.

Special Features:
o Tenth Anniversary Blu-ray Includes Love Actually Christmas Ornament & Digital Copy

Where to Watch: Blu-ray, DVD, Vudu, Netflix Streaming, Amazon Instant Streaming, iTunes

Notting Hill
Notting Hill
Photo credit: Universal

“Notting Hill”

Deja vu. Timed with “Love Actually” is another one of the few quality ’90s romantic comedies designed to stick out of stockings or appear wrapped under a Christmas tree. If you can only pick one, take “Love,” but this is a nice alternate.

“I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy asking him to love her.” Starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, Notting Hill is an unforgettable romantic comedy from the writer of Love Actually and Four Weddings And A Funeral. Anna Scott (Roberts) is the world’s most famous movie star. Her picture has been plastered on the cover of every magazine and every time she makes a move, the entire world knows about it. William Thacker (Grant) owns a travel bookstore in the quaint neighborhood of Notting Hill with a roommate from hell and a nonexistent love life. When their paths cross, the couple comes to face with the ultimate question: can two people fall in love with the whole world watching?

Special Features:
o Deleted Scenes
o Spotlight On Location
o Hugh Grant’s Movie Tips
o Seasonal Walk On Portobello Road
o Photograph Montage
o Feature Commentary With Director Roger Mitchell, Producer Duncan Kenworthy And Writer Richard Curtis
o Music Videos
o Theatrical Trailers

Where to Watch: Blu-ray, DVD, Vudu, Amazon Instant Streaming, iTunes

Photo credit: IFC


Elijah Wood plays against type in this disturbing remake of the ’80s cult horror hit. Dark, twisted, and more intense than most Hollywood horror remakes, Maniac should make a gorey alternative for viewers looking for flicks to watch this Halloween. You really have to know that your loved one is into the genre to subject her to this on All Hallow’s Eve. It’s deranged but fascinating.

Frank (Elijah Wood, The Lord of the Rings) leads a deceptively peaceful life: to the outside world, he’s a withdrawn and somewhat eccentric owner of a mannequin store. But his quiet facade masks an inner rage that forces him to brutally kill the women who manage to get too close to him.

When a young artist named Anna (Nora Arnezeder, Safe House) appears one day at Frank’s shop and asks for his help with her new exhibition, Frank develops an obsession with her that threatens to completely destroy his already fragile psyche. Soon the streets become unsafe for any woman after dark as this newly-awakened maniac begins to stalk and kill.

A 21st century Jack the Ripper story set in present day Los Angeles, Maniac is an intimate, visually daring, psychologically complex and profoundly horrific trip into the downward spiraling nightmare of a killer and his victims.

Special Features:
o The Making of Maniac Documentary
o Commentary with Star Elijah Wood, Director Franck Khalfoun, and Producer Alex Taylor
o Deleted Scenes
o Poster Gallery
o Trailer

Where to Watch: Blu-ray, DVD, Vudu, Netflix Streaming, Amazon Instant Streaming

Check out page two for the latest in TV on Blu-ray…

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