This week's new DVD releases feature some solid offerings.
"Lee Daniels' The Butler," Grade B: True story of the White House butler who worked for eight presidents. Forest Whitaker stars.
The film tells a powerful story of a man who goes from picking cotton to working in the White House. His relationship with multiple presidents parallels events regarding race relations unfolding in America. Whitaker turns in an Oscar-worthy performance, but the cast of supporting players — particularly Oprah Winfrey — is often more of a distraction than attraction.
"Carrie," Grade B-: How much you enjoy the remake of the 1976 classic horror film will depend on how well you remember the original film. Except for more elaborate special effects and the addition of social media as a tool for the bullying that turns milquetoast Carrie into the worst prom date ever, this is basically the same take on the Stephen King novel.
Those who haven't seen the original will be introduced to the emotionally and socially stunted Carrie, played to a creepy chill by Chloë Grace Moretz. She's a high school reject because her zealot mother (Julianne Moore) has raised her to believe that any good feelings are pathways for Satan to take her soul. You can imagine how much dear old mom fears any sexual awakenings that could be going on with her daughter.
"You're Next," Grade B: The first 10 minutes of the new horror film "You're Next" will feel familiar to fans of the genre. Moments after a couple have sex in an isolated location, they're brutally murdered.
Don't give up on the movie.
Through the smart writing of Simon Barrett, the film slowly changes into a horror thriller that will have you questioning who is evil and who is good. It's this ambiguity that makes for a refreshing take on what has become a genre stagnated by too many conventions.
"The Spectacular Now," Grade B: Movies dealing with life as a teenager tend to focus on cool kids with the perfect life or the uncool youths who climb out of despair. This new release is a bridge between the two — it's the cool kid who must face the realities of growing up.
The film's biggest problem will be finding an audience. It's a powerful look at the pains of being a teen, but it isn't the kind of entertainment that tends to lure young audiences. And, because it focuses on high school students, it won't be an automatic selection for an older audience. Either age group should put aside concerns. This movie delivers a compelling look at life, told through first-rate performances.
Also new on DVD:
"Riddick": Vin Diesel is back playing the antihero.
"Enough Said": Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini star in this story of complicated relationships.
"Fruitvale Station": Based on the true story of a young man who was killed by a BART police officer in Oakland.
"A.C.O.D.": Comedy that looks at the world of adult children of divorce.
"Big Sur": Jack Kerouac tries to escape his inner demons.
"Top Gear 20": Latest season of the BBC series that looks at cars.
"Terraferma": The lives of two families become intertwined.
"Joanna Lumley's Greek Odyssey": Four-part documentary has Lumley as a gracious guide on a Greek adventure.
"Where I Am": Man goes to Ireland to lay the past to rest.
"Getting That Girl": High school senior must adjust to life in Los Angeles.
"Voodoo Possession": Demon reaches from beyond the grave to torment the living.
"I'm In Love With A Church Girl": Drug trafficker falls for a church girl.
"Unmanned: America's Drone Wars": Looks at effect of U.S. drone strikes.
"Be My Valentine": Widower may be ready to love again. Natalie Brown stars.
"Wolverine vs. Sabretooth": Wolverine and Sabretooth square off in one more battle.
"Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did For Love": The composer is profiled in the "American Masters" documentary.
"Crossing Lines: Season One": NBC crime drama about the team that tracks international criminals.
"A Single Shot": When John Moon (Sam Rockwell) accidentally shoots a young woman, the isolated hunter becomes the hunted.
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.