What to Watch: Dec. 10-16, 2013

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

What to Watch prides itself on often offering a wide variety of material from TV seasons to On Demand exclusives to remasters of classic flicks. Not this week. All six of the New Releases that you may be drawn to in your favorite store or on your favorite service are movies, and all released in the last 18 months. But the variety within those movies is remarkable. A Best Picture winner, action flicks, a superhero, and two indie drams that waste talented casts. Pick your favorites. Here’s how we would rank ‘em.

Argo: Extended Edition
Argo: Extended Edition
Photo credit: Warner Brothers

“Argo: Extended Edition”

Ben Affleck’s Oscar winner for Best Picture is the final high profile “Gift Set” of the year fom the studio that simply does these kind of limited edition releases better than any in production today. This is not as lavish a set as the recent one for “JFK” but the movie IS only a year old. Give it time. And while the physical collectibles here are cool, it’s the wealth of digital special features that really elevate the release. It’s a great gift idea this holiday season, offering new insight into the production of one of the best movies of the last few years.

As the Iranian Revolution takes over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, six Americans escape. Now only one man can get them out from behind enemy lines. Tony Mendez is a brilliant CIA agent who specializes in impossible escapes, but his new plan is as daring as it is desperate. Disguised as a film crew, Tony and the fugitives must hide in plain sight, where the slightest slipup could end in instant death. Academy Award winner Ben Affleck directs and stars in a thriller based on an unbelievably true story. The powerful cast includes Emmy Award winner Bryan Cranston and John Goodman, as well as Academy Award winner Alan Arkin.

Special Features:
o Argo Declassified
o Ben Affleck’s Balancing Act
o Argo “@$*%” Yourself
o A Discussion With The Cast Of Argo
o Tony Mendez On Tony Mendez
o The Istanbul Journey
o Picture In Picture: Eyewitness Account
o Commentary By Director Ben Affleck And Writer Chris Terrio
o Rescued From Tehran: We Were There
o Argo: Absolute Authenticity
o Argo: The CIA And Hollywood Connection
o Escape From Iran: The Hollywood Option
o Mini Poster
o 64 Page Behind The Scenes Photo Book
o Map With Notes On Scenes From The Film
o Replica ID Badge Prop

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

Fast and Furious 6: Extended Edition
Fast and Furious 6: Extended Edition
Photo credit: Universal

“Fast & Furious 6: Extended Edition”

The tragic passing of Paul Walker has made this release bittersweet (and shut down production of “Fast & Furious 7” indefinitely) but action fans shouldn’t stay away from it simply because it will remind them of real-life tragedy. While not quite as much fun as “Fast Five,” this action flick was one of the most enjoyable blockbusters of the 2013 Summer movie season. It’s gloriously over-the-top in ways that perfectly off-set the self-seriousness of the Oscar season and provides a nice getaway from family activity in the holiday season.

Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson and Michelle Rodriguez lead a cast of returning all-stars as the global blockbuster franchise built on speed delivers the biggest adrenaline rush yet. Hobbs (Johnson) has been tracking an organization of lethally skilled drivers, whose mastermind (Luke Evans) is aided by the love Dom (Diesel) thought was dead, Letty (Rodriguez). The only way to stop the criminal mercenaries from stealing a top secret weapon is to outmatch them at street level, so Hobbs asks for the help of Dom and his elite team. Payment for the ultimate chase? Full pardons for all of them and a chance to make their families whole again.

Special Features:
o Extended Version Of The Film
o Take Control
o Hand To Hand Fury
o Gearhead’s Delight
o The Flip Car
o Planes, Tanks, And Automobiles
o Deleted Scenes
o On The Set With Vin
o The Making Of Fast & Furious 6
o Feature Commentary With Director Justin Lin

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

Despicable Me 2
Despicable Me 2
Photo credit: Universal

“Despicable Me 2”

Like the first movie, the new “Despicable Me” is cute but kind of forgettable. I wish these beloved comedy hits were a bit smarter but it’s easy to see why they’re so popular — they’re fun. They’re not offensively stupid enough to be insulting to parents who try to enjoy them with their kids and I have yet to meet a rugrat who didn’t love the minions. I know my kids do. The Blu-ray is nicely equipped with some very-funny short films, offering a reason to buy it for those who may be considering just streaming the movie. Pick it up on Blu-ray instead.

Gru, his adorable girls, and the mischievous Minions are back with a cast of unforgettable new characters in the blockbuster sequel to the worldwide phenomenon. Just as Gru has given up being super-bad to be a super-dad, the Anti-Villain League recruits him to track down a new criminal mastermind and save the world. Partnered with secret agent Lucy Wilde, Gru, along with the wildly unpredictable Minions, must figure out how to keep his cover while also keeping up with his duties as a father. Assemble the Minions for laugh-out-loud comedy in “one of the funniest, most enjoyable movies ever!” (MovieGuide)

Special Features:
o Feature Commentary with Directors Chris Renaud & Pierre Coffin
o Gru’s Girls
o Gadgets Galore
o 3 New Mini-Movies
o Making of the Mini-Movies
o Deleted Scene
o The Minions
o Evil Minions
o A Gru-some Transformation
o El Hombre Malo: The Villainy of El Macho

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

The Wolverine
The Wolverine
Photo credit: Fox

“The Wolverine”

Hugh Jackman continues his attempt at movie domination with this modest 2013 blockbuster, a movie with some entertaining beats and nice degree of understated plotting given the clutter that has dominated the genre lately. Jackman is, again, the best reason to see it, finding a balance between charisma and vulnerability that has helped him define one of the most beloved film superheroes of the day. I wish “Wolverine” was a little tighter but it looks good, he’s great in it, and the story clicks enough to keep you entertained. Ultimately, it plays more like a side project to the A-list extravaganzas like the upcoming “X-Men: Days of Future Past” but it works on its own, relatively modest terms.

Hugh Jackman returns as The Wolverine and faces his ultimate nemesis in an action packed life-or-death battle that takes him to modern day Japan. Vulnerable for the first time and pushed to his limits, Logan confronts not only lethal samurai steel but also his inner struggle against his own immortality; an epic fight that will leave him forever changed.

Special Features:
o The Wolverine Second Screen App
o Alternate Ending
o X-Men: Days Of Future Past Set Tour
o The Path Of a Ronin

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

Photo credit: Paramount


Naomi Watts and Robin Wright are two of the most interesting actresses of their generation but they’re talents are woefully underserved in this overheated melodrama. Anne Fontaine’s movie about two women who end up sleeping with each other’s sons loses its way from day one, largely because the lovers for the two leads have been so boringly cast. Watts, believe it or not, still makes enough interesting character decisions here to almost warrant a look but not quite. Paramount doesn’t help make the sale through their odd decision to not include a single special feature.

Escape to a close-knit seaside community where friendship, love and lust collide. Starring Academy Award nominee Naomi Watts and Golden Globe nominated actress Robin Wright, Adore is a sensual yet thought provoking drama in which two lifelong friends find themselves entangled in passionate sexual relationships with each other’s sons. As they struggle to make sense of conflicting emotions and desires, the lines between family, friendship and morality are blurred. When powerful bonds reach their breaking point, discover what truly keeps us connected.

Special Features:
o Nothing…For Shame

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

Jayne Mansfield's Car
Jayne Mansfield’s Car
Photo credit: Anchor Bay

“Jayne Mansfield’s Car”

Billy Bob Thornton’s first directorial effort in over a decade (many forget that he helmed “Sling Blade” and once showed promise as a director as well as an actor) is a tragically cluttered mess. A great cast is wasted in a film that never finds its way tonally. There are a few nice scenes of dialogue here and there — I could watch Robert Duvall and John Hurt drive around for an hour — but it never amounts to anything. It’s the kind of movie one forgets as soon as it’s over. And if they do remember it, it’s not for the right reasons.

In what critics are calling his best work as writer/director since Slingblade, Academy Award winner Billy Bob Thornton stars - along with Oscar winner Robert Duvall, two-time Oscar nominee John Hurt and Golden Globe winner Kevin Bacon - in this story of fathers and sons, wars and peace, and the turbulent time that changed America forever. It’s 1969 in a small Alabama town, and the death of a quirky clan’s long-estranged wife and mother bring together two very different families for the funeral. But do the scars of the past hide differences that will tear them apart or expose truths that could lead to the most unexpected collisions of all? Robert Patrick (Walk The Line), Ray Stevenson (Dexter), Katherine LaNasa (Deception) and Frances O’Connor (The Hunter) co-star in the acclaimed comedy/drama where “the performances are first-rate” (NY Daily News).

Special Features:
o Jayne Mansfield’s Car: Behind the Scenes

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

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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