This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: In the Heart of the Sea, Peanuts Movie

This Week: The whale tail that inspired Moby Dick, revisiting the old gang with The Peanuts Movie, and a final semester with Community.

► There are some box office bombs you just can’t explain. Ron Howard’s IN THE HEART OF THE SEA looked like a winner from its thrilling first trailer, and it lived up to pretty much every expectation except financially. It’s an old fashioned adventure, based on the true story which inspired ‘Moby Dick,’ with an excellent performance from Chris Hemsworth that shows he’s more than the guy with the hammer. He plays the reluctant first mate on the whale ship Essex, which had the misfortune of running into a massive white whale which destroys their vessel and leaves them stranded at sea. It’s heavy-handed at times, but Howard is dealing American folklore here. It feels like a fairy tale as the events are relayed to a young Herman Melville, who spins the story into what D.H. Lawrence called “the greatest book of the sea ever written.” Extras include Howard’s own ‘captain’s log,’ deleted scenes and a closer look at the story’s true events.

► Certainly one of last year’s most lovingly made flicks, THE PEANUTS MOVIE serves as both a fun introduction and sweetly nostalgic nod to these classic characters. The very definition of a movie both kids and parents will get plenty out of. It was also, somewhat surprisingly, the first Peanuts movie in 35 years. A loaded blu-ray includes six Snoopy shorts, a feature on how to draw the characters, and the featurette ‘You Never Grow Up, Charlie Brown.’

► After it was (finally) cancelled by NBC, Yahoo! Screen gave COMMUNITY one last Heimlich maneuver to allow its mythic sixth season. And after so many campaigns to save the show over the years, it was weird how little anyone cared. The 13 episodes came and went minus another cast member (Yvette Nicole Brown) and at the end, Yahoo killed off its Yahoo! Screen service. So this really looks like the end, and maybe it’s time – while these final episode are still fun, they never approach the cleverness and inspired writing of those early seasons, and what’s left of the cast looks ready to move on. You were great, Greendale, but we gotta graduate some time.

► The ‘Grease’ part was okay, but it’s the ‘live’ part that made GREASE LIVE such a thrill. Fox spent a year preparing for this musical broadcast Jan. 31, and the end result, utilizing two Warner studio soundstages and the outdoor back lot on a rainy Los Angeles day, was pretty amazing. By far the best of the recent network musicals, it combined both the original stage version with the 1978 movie, throwing in a new tune for Carly Rae Jepson as well. Julianne Hough and Aaron Tveit mostly hit their marks as Danny and Sandy, but it’s Vanessa Hudgens as Rizzo – performing the day after her father died – that gave this ‘Grease’ its gumption. Extras include the featurette ‘Without a Net’ and a look at the choreography.

► The march to dropping the big one continues in Season 2 of MANHATTAN, following the scientists, soldiers and wives of the 1943/44 Manhattan project in New Mexico, inventing the bomb which would help end World War II but cast a pall over humanity ever since. You can feel the weight of what they’re doing as they get closer to their goal, unfortunately what promised to be an intriguing Season 3 won’t happen – WGN America has cancelled the acclaimed but low-rated drama.

► You spoiled fanboys still complaining about today’s Marvel movies? You wanna nitpick every little thing? I give you 1986’s HOWARD THE DUCK – what passed for a Marvel movie when I was a teen. This historical oddity isn’t just bad, it was the first sign George Lucas was losing it. He executive produced this all-time bomb in which a dwarf in a horrible duck costume joins Tim Robbins and Lea Thompson to mangle everything about the satiric comic. Don’t let the fact this has become a ‘cult classic’ sway you – it’s still painful to watch such a complete bungling of the source material. Extras include a look back at the film and its garish special effects.

► How bad is the 1980 musical bomb XANADU? So bad it inspired the creation of the Golden Raspberry Awards, though strangely enough it lost to another musical that first year – the Village People howler ‘Can’t Stop the Music.’ There are no winners here. Despite a pretty good soundtrack and Olivia Newton-John at her hottie peak, this weird roller-disco fantasy is damn near unwatchable. The film’s blu-ray debut offers the insanity in high-def, with a retrospective on the film’s “lasting legacy.” Okay.

► For whatever reason, the 1982 musical THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS has been dismissed as some sort of flop over the years. A throwaway for Dolly Parton and especially Burt Reynolds, who was huge at the time. It was actually one of the last huge hits of Reynolds’ career, and was the highest-grossing musical (non-animated) of the ‘80s. Based on a ‘70s Broadway show, it has Reynolds as a sheriff involved with the owner (Parton) of the local ‘Chicken Ranch,’ teaming up to oppose a TV windbag (Dom DeLuise) who wants to shut the place down.

Also out this week:





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