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New Releases: 'The Cabin in the Woods' is smart, scary

'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,' 'Chico & Rita,' 'Steve Martin: The Television Stuff' are also new to DVD, Blu-ray.

September 15, 2012|By Noel Murray
  • Fran Kranz, left, Chris Hemsworth and Anna Hutchison in "The Cabin in the Woods."
Fran Kranz, left, Chris Hemsworth and Anna Hutchison in "The Cabin… (Diyah Pera / Lionsgate )

The Cabin in the Woods

Lionsgate, $29.99; Blu-ray, $34.99

Available on VOD beginning Sept. 18

Joss Whedon is one of the hottest writer-directors in Hollywood thanks to his blockbuster "The Avengers," but that's not even the best movie Whedon has been involved with in 2012. His script for this horror-comedy is brilliant: a deconstruction of the college-students-getting-picked-off-one-by-one-in-the-wilderness genre that's genuinely scary, even as it's explaining to the audience what it's doing. It's best not to know too much going in; suffice to say that five youngsters enter a place of dark wonder and are subtly manipulated over the course of a weekend into making the kind of stupid mistakes that kids in horror movies always do. Director Drew Goddard — an old Whedon associate from the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" / "Angel" days — makes sure that no matter how meta the film gets, the audience stays on its toes. The DVD and Blu-ray add a Goddard/Whedon commentary track and several featurettes.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

20th Century Fox, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD beginning Sept. 18

A surprise hit worldwide, this ensemble dramedy — based on Deborah Moggach's novel "These Foolish Things" — stars Dev Patel as a hotel manager in Jaipur who hustles to keep his business afloat while catering to the needs of various British guests who've come to India for different personal reasons. The movie proceeds about as expected, but the pleasure of watching the likes of Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and Tom Wilkinson get back in touch with the best part of themselves trumps any corniness or predictability. The DVD includes just a couple of featurettes; the Blu-ray tacks on more about India.

Chico & Rita

New Group, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95

Available on VOD beginning Sept. 18

This Oscar-nominated film is an artful Spanish cartoon about two Cuban musicians who hop around the globe for nearly 60 years, falling in and out of love while they pursue showbiz careers. Colorful, musical and poignant, the film tells the kind of mature, complicated story that's rare for an animated feature, but the creative team makes good use of the medium, re-creating vintage Havana, Las Vegas and Paris with pen and ink, and populating them with people and sounds that practically pop off the screen. The DVD and Blu-ray add a featurette and a commentary by director Fernando Trueba; a special edition DVD/Blu-ray set also includes a soundtrack CD and an excerpt from the graphic novel.

Steve Martin: The Television Stuff

Shout! Factory, $34.93

In the late '70s, when Steve Martin's smartly silly stand-up act had become so popular that he was playing arenas, the comedian sought new avenues for his highly conceptual humor: in movies, in prose, and in a series of television specials and appearances. The terrific three-DVD box set "Steve Martin: The Television Stuff" contains all of the specials — from an early nightclub gig that aired on HBO to his later network specials, which relied more on short filmed pieces — along with some of Martin's "Saturday Night Live" sketches and talk show spots. And on each disc, the usually reticent Martin talks about his past and his craft. It's a generous package, capturing an entertainer who's always tried to fit his talents to the medium he's working in — striving to be both entertaining and surprising.

And…

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon

20th Century Fox $22.98; Blu-ray, $29.99

Available on VOD beginning Sept. 18

Get a Life: The Complete Series

Shout! Factory, $59.97

The Magic of Belle Isle

Magnolia, $26.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

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