‘Be careful out there’ when shopping new DVD releases

The Fresno BeeMay 2, 2014 

This week’s new DVD releases are as American as apple pie, Disneyland and street crime.

“Labor Day,” Grade C-minus: An escaped convict comes into the life of a 13-year-old boy and his mother. It’s based on the book of the same name by Joyce Maynard.

A key moment in “Labor Day” has the convict Frank (Josh Brolin) demonstrating the proper way to make a pie. His point is that it’s not the ingredients that make a pie good but how they are put together. Director/writer Jason Reitman should have followed that recipe in putting together the movie.

The film has wonderful performances by Brolin and Kate Winslet, who plays emotionally broken single mom Adele. And it is a romance that should be enjoyed with someone you love. The problem is its tempo (it would have to double in speed to reach a snail’s pace), a script full of contrivances, and the most ominous musical soundtrack since “Halloween.”

“Hill Street Blues: The Complete Collection,” Grade A: There’s a reason this series won 26 Emmy Awards including the Outstanding Drama Series four years running.

The NBC cop drama from Steven Bochco and Michael Kozoll redefined the TV police series format by introducing a group of flawed characters who worked in a world of criminal and personal chaos. The show embraced a gritty realism that many TV series have copied but none has been able to match.

The series features an amazing cast that includes Daniel J. Travanti, Veronica Hamel, Bruce Weitz, James B. Sikking and Betty Thomas.

When you go looking for a TV cop series to buy on DVD, “be careful out there” and pick up this set. It includes all 144 episodes. It’s one of TV’s finest.

“Escape from Tomorrow,” Grade D-minus: The film has garnered a lot of attention for the guerrilla filmmaking writer/director Randy Moore employed to make the horror film. The majority of the movie was shot at Disneyland and Disney World without permission of the entertainment giant.

It’s kind of fun to watch the movie and try to figure out how secretive the cast and crew had to be. Once that initial interest wears off, “Escape from Tomorrow” becomes a slow-paced, badly acted horror movie that will take its place among cult favorites like “Pink Flamingos.”

Also new on DVD:

“Locker 13”: Theme park janitor looks into the mysteries surrounding an old locker.

“Gimme Shelter”: Teen (Vanessa Hudgens) fights for survival and redemption on the streets.

“The Legend of Hercules”: The original story of the mythical Greek hero.

“The Devil’s Due”: A couple deal with a devilish pregnancy.

“SpongeBob, You’re Fired!”: SpongeBob must learn to find a life outside of Mr. Krab’s watchful eyes.

“The Rise & Fall of The Clash”: Documentary about the final chapter of the juggernaut band.

“Dark Hearts”: Struggling artist finds his muse in a sultry singer.

“Civil War: The Untold Story”: Elizabeth McGovern narrates the documentary that provides new insights into the causes of the war.

“Jim Gaffigan: Obsessed”: The fourth comedy special from the “King of Clean Comedy.”

“Bad Country”: Detective (Willem Dafoe) teams with a contract killer-turned-informant (Matt Dillon) to take a powerful criminal.

“Dead Shadows”: Young man’s parents were brutally killed the last time Halley’s Comet could be seen.

“The Strange Woman”: The 1946 film starring Hedy Lamarr is being re-released.

“Approved for Adoption”: Animated documentary tracing the unconventional upbringing of the filmmaker Jung Henin.

“Father Brown: The Complete Collection”: First complete collection of the series seen on “Mystery!” in the mid-1970s.

“Gloria”: An older woman rediscovers life, love and heartbreak.

“Star Trek: Enterprise – Season Four”: The space travel TV series is available on Blu-ray for the first time.

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