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‘Boxtrolls’ is lone family-friendly choice among movies on video this week

Posted: January 23, 2015 4:32 p.m.
Updated: January 23, 2015 4:32 p.m.
Among the array of new movies on Blu-ray and DVD this week, most are rated R and only one is family-friendly: the Oscar-nominated animated feature “The Boxtrolls.”

“The Boxtrolls” (Universal/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital/On Demand, 2014, PG, deleted scenes, featurettes). Based on the popular novel “Here Be Monsters,” written and illustrated by Alan Snow, this aggressively grotesque cartoon movie is done in the style of stop-motion animation, an old-fashioned choice that seems suited to a film set in early 19th century, and which is also in keeping with the studios’ previous films “Coraline” and “ParaNorman.”

The story has a peaceful race of nighttime trash scavengers known as Boxtrolls living underground. There they are raising an orphaned human boy as their own. When the town council is approached by a pest exterminator to get rid of the Boxtrolls, the boy travels to the surface to save his “family.”

Like “Coraline” and ParaNorman,” this one may be too dark for very young children, but older kids and their parents can have fun with the rapid-fire gags and inventive artistic style.

“Lucy” (Universal/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital/On Demand, 2014, R for violence and sexuality, featurettes). This crazy sci-fi thriller seems to be thumbing its nose at Marvel, as if to say, “Hey, if you guys won’t give Black Widow her own movie, we’ll give Scarlett Johansson another female action character.” But coming from Luc Besson (“La Femme Nikita,” “The Fifth Element”), you know it’s going to be eccentric.

The result is a kinetic tale with Johansson as a young woman forced to be a mule for an experimental drug, which leaks into her system, unlocking 100 percent of her intelligence potential and turning her into a gravity-defying, vengeance-minded killing machine. Morgan Freeman co-stars.

“The Zero Theorem” (Well Go/Blu-ray/DVD, 2014; R for language, sex, nudity; featurettes, trailer). “Lucy” looks downright routine compared to the latest sci-fi weirdness from former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam (“Time Bandits,” “Brazil,” “Twelve Monkeys”). Christoph Waltz stars as a computer programmer in a dark, dingy apocalyptic future, assigned to mundane tasks while suffering from existential angst as he searches for the secrets behind human existence. Melanie Thierry, David Thewlis, Tilda Swinton and Matt Damon co-star.

“Life’s a Breeze” (Magnolia/Blu-ray/DVD, 2014, R for language). One of those distinctly low-key “British” comedies, this one from Ireland, with Fionnula Flanagan as a widow whose adult son and his niece clean her home while she’s out and unwittingly toss an old mattress that contains her life savings. If only finding and retrieving it were so simple.

“Rudderless” (Paramount/DVD, 2014, R for language, deleted scenes, music video). Character actor William H. Macy (“Fargo”) makes his directing debut with this story of a grieving father (Billy Crudup) who discovers his late son was a songwriter. He then takes credit for the songs as he forms a band with a young man (Anton Yelchin) that becomes a surrogate for his son. Selena Gomez, Laurence Fishburne, Macy’s wife Felicity Huffman and Macy himself also show up.

“May in the Summer” (Cohen/Blu-ray/DVD, 2013, R for language, in English and in Arabic with English subtitles, featurette, photo gallery, trailers). In a clash of old-world values and new-world freedoms, a successful author engaged to a Muslim scholar in New York returns home to Jordan where she clashes with her born-again Christian mother, her estranged father and her two sisters.

“A Bet’s a Bet” (Cinedigm/DVD, 2015, not rated). Two driven East Coast professionals — Mena Suvari as a bitter divorcee and Geoff Stults as a high-rolling, womanizing divorce lawyer — find themselves engaged in one-upmanship through a series of battle-of-the-sexes wagers. Co-stars include Kristin Chenoweth, Dana Ashbrook and Debra Jo Rupp.

“The Pirates” (Well Go/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, 2015, not rated, in Korean with English subtitles). Here’s a plot you haven’t seen before: On the eve of founding a 14th century dynasty in Korea, a giant gray whale swallows the emperor’s royal seal, prompting the emperor to offer a bounty for its return. His agents sail to retrieve it but so do thieves and pirates.

“White Bird in a Blizzard” (Magnolia/Blu-ray/DVD, 2014; R for sex, nudity, language, drugs; deleted/extended scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, trailer). A teenage girl (Shailene Woodley) is conflicted when her mother disappears. Did Mom run off or did something more sinister happen? Unfortunately, the plot takes a backseat to the film’s exploitation of teenage sex. Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Gabourey Sidibe, Thomas Jane and Angela Bassett co-star.

“Lost Legion” (Lionsgate/DVD/Digital, 2015; R for sex, nudity, violence, language; trailers). Some years after the fall of the Roman Empire, the scheming wife of a Roman soldier plots to have her son become the next emperor.

“Annabelle” (Warner/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, 2014, R for violence, deleted scenes, featurettes). Prequel to “The Conjuring” is set in 1960s California as a young couple obtains a doll that later has a curse put on it by cultists. After the wife gives birth, the devil doll attempts to possess the newborn. Alfre Woodard has a supporting role.

“Gnome Alone” (Lionsgate/DVD, 2015; R for violence, sex, nudity, language, drugs; featurette, trailers). When a young college student tries to help a pedestrian hit by a car, the victim hands her an amulet. She doesn’t understand its power until a nasty gnome appears and begins killing off anyone who offends her.


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