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New Releases: Silly fun in Aardman's 'The Pirates! Band of Misfits'

Also reviewed: Showtime's 'Homeland'; Philippe Falardeau's 'Monsieur Lazhar'; 'V/H/S' horror anthology.

August 25, 2012|By Noel Murray
  • Hugh Grant voices the Pirate Captain in "The Pirates! Band of Misfits."
Hugh Grant voices the Pirate Captain in "The Pirates! Band of Misfits." (Aardman Animations / Sony…)

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $40.99/$45.99

Available on VOD beginning Tuesday

Aardman Animations' stop-motion adaptation of Gideon Defoe's cult novel is fast-paced and full of dry British wit and sly visual gags — almost like a kid-friendly cartoon version of a Monty Python film. Hugh Grant voices a kindly but inept pirate captain, who seizes Charles Darwin's expedition ship and then finds himself dodging the Queen's army while trying to leverage a rare dodo into a trophy for Pirate of the Year. It's all silly in the best possible way, with something weird and funny on-screen every second. The DVD and Blu-ray contain bonus short films, interactive games, featurettes and a commentary track by director Peter Lord.

Homeland: The Complete First Season

20th Century Fox, $59.98; Blu-ray, $69.98

The Showtime hit stars Claire Danes as a mentally unstable CIA officer who becomes convinced that a heroic American POW played by Damian Lewis is in cahoots with terrorists. Over the course of its first season, "Homeland" explores the relationships that its two protagonists have with their loved ones, colleagues and each other, as it becomes clearer that no one's loyalty — or sanity — is assured. Just in time for the much-anticipated second season, newcomers can catch up with this stunningly well acted, persistently exciting series' first 12 episodes via DVD and Blu-ray, while fans can dig into the deleted scenes, featurettes and selected episode commentaries.

Monsieur Lazhar

Music Box, $29.98; Blu-ray, $38.94

One of the rare Canadian films to be nominated for a best foreign language film Oscar, Philippe Falardeau's work is based on Évelyne de la Chenelière's play about an Algerian immigrant who takes over a Montreal elementary school class after the previous teacher commits suicide. The play was a one-man show, but Falardeau beautifully fleshes it out. The movie isn't just about a man with a hard past; it's also about the modern kids who have to adjust to his more traditional methods of teaching, and the community that's dealing with changing demographics and personal tragedy. This is a touching film, with a strong sense of place and a main character (played by Mohamed Fellag) who's easy to cheer. The DVD and Blu-ray adds extensive interviews that reveal the process of translating the play to the screen.


Available on VOD beginning Friday

This horror anthology features five short films plus a wraparound segment, each in the "found footage" genre: David Bruckner's short imagines a homemade porn video that takes a demonic turn; Joe Swanberg shows a webcam conversation between a young man, his girlfriend and the creepy children who hide in the shadows; and so on. Not all of these segments work, but the combination of on-the-fly staging and special effects are frequently impressive, plus this is consistently scary, with a sense of how to make the warps and static of videotape integral to the fright. Besides, any horror anthology that can reduce the "Friday the 13th" "killer in the woods" routine down to 10 minutes — in first-person, no less — deserves a nod of appreciation. And perhaps even a shriek.



Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Available on VOD Tuesday

The Lucky One

Warner Bros., $28.98; Blu-ray, $29.98/$35.99

Available on VOD Tuesday

Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season

Walt Disney, $45.99; Blu-ray, $79.99

Think Like a Man

Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $35.99

Available on VOD Tuesday

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