New DVD releases this week will have you coming and going.
“The Maze Runner,” Grade B-: Group of young captives must find a way out of a giant maze. Based on the James Dashner young-adult dystopian science fiction novels.
“The Maze Runner”director Wes Ball gets off to a fast start, in part by the way the movie is put together and because the story is so thin there’s no need to spend time explaining why things happen. The combination of Ball’s direction and the solid performances by the young cast gives the characters some depth. Ball has also done a good job creating the world, which comes across as feeling both grand and claustrophobic.
The scenes where the runners — those who daily travel through the maze to map it — deal with massive sliding doors is not for anyone who gets uncomfortable in tight confines. The action is the film’s main draw.
“This is Where I Leave You,” Grade B-: Give all the credit to Jason Bateman for making “This Is Where I Leave You” work. The former “Arrested Development” star — one of the more under-rated actors working today — gives this family dramedy the strong emotional core needed to hold together the less interesting storylines.
The problem is that the film is based on Jonathan Tropper’s novel, a place where characters can get more attention. There is no way for the film to service all of the plots the same. But still, director Shawn Levy — who faced a similar glut of characters with “Cheaper By the Dozen” — finds a way, even with the short cuts taken, to give the film a sweet quality that makes it likable.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” Grade B-: New York’s under attack by the sinister Shredder. It’s up to Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo to save the day.
The big problem is there isn’t enough Turtles and too much April O’Neil (Megan Fox) in this action film. When they make a movie called “No Longer a Teenager Tattooed Movie Star,” then Fox can take over the film.
Despite the additional focus on Fox, the Turtles are still fun-loving and rear-kicking enough to save the day.
Also new on DVD Tuesday, Dec. 16:
• “The Skeleton Twins”: Estranged twins get back together after near-death experiences.
• “The Devil’s Hand”: One of six girls will fulfill an ancient prophecy.
• “Altina”: A look at the life of Altina Schinasi.
• “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever”: Aubrey Plaza provides the voice for the grumpy cat.
• “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Season 2”: Journey into the past to look at familial histories of 29 of today’s most recognizable names.
• “Makers: Volume 2”: Tells the stories of women in six spheres of influence.
• “Love the One You’re With”: Three sisters face major decisions about taking success over love.
• “Expedition to the End of the World”: Crew sets sail for the rapidly melting massifs of Northeast Greenland.
• “The Device”: Two sisters learn truth about aliens on Earth.
• “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis: The Final Season”: Final stories of lives and loves of the gang attending S. Peter Pryor Junior College.
• “Lord of Illusions”: Clive Barker’s supernatural thriller that tears apart the boundaries between reality and magic.
• “Arrested Development: Season Four”: Continuing story of the Bluth family. Jason Bateman stars.
• “The Americans: Season Two”: Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys star in this tale of two Russian spies living a deep undercover life in America.
• “Magic in the Moonlight”: Efforts to debunk a mystic turns magical. Colin Firth stars.
• “Mentor”: Documentary looks at teen suicide and bullying in America.